A notice of a complete ban on solid waste imports was released jointly by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and the General Administration of Customs. From 1 January 2021, the import licenses for solid waste will be no longer approved by the MEE. The dumping, stacking, and disposal of waste products from overseas on Chinese territory will also be banned. Moreover, the notification points to China’s goal of achieving what it calls “waste-free cities” and promoting the development of its renewable resource industry. In the upcoming years, the government aims at increasing the utilization level of the solid waste, improving solid waste collection centers, implementing the newly revised “Law of Solid Waste” and promoting the transformation of non-environmentally friendly enterprises in cities amongst others.

China began importing solid waste as a source of raw materials in the 1980s and for years has been the world’s largest importer, despite its limited capacity in garbage disposal. Some companies illegally brought foreign waste into the country for profit, posing a threat to the environment and public health.

In late 2017 China banned the import of 24 types of solid waste, including unsorted paper, textiles, and vanadium slag. Since the country began to phase out waste imports in 2017, the volume of imported waste has fallen by 68 percent, from 42 million to 13 million metric tons in 2019. From January to November 2020, the volume was 7.2 million tons, which showed a further drop of solid waste imports to China. This newly introduced ban is a culmination of policies introduced since 2017 to phase out the import of solid waste.

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Photo Credit: GIZ / Florian Kopp