In December 2017, the General Administration of Customs carried out a Blue Sky campaign in 13 provinces to crack down on smuggling of solid waste. During the campaign, 127 criminal suspects were arrested, and 323,000 tons of solid waste, including plastics and slag, were seized.
Increasing amounts of foreign waste continue to be imported because of the huge profits it brings. Some people buy these waste materials illegally and end up selling them at prices up to hundreds of times what they originally paid.
Loopholes in regulations and laws are also reasons why rubbish continues to flow into China. Article 25 of China's Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste bans importing solid waste. But it also allows the import of solid waste that can be used as raw materials. Some companies utilize this ambiguity to bring hazardous foreign waste into China.
What worries people the most is whether smuggling of foreign waste will come back once the crackdown is over. In addition to campaigns, we must also prepare for a time-consuming war. Relevant government departments should perfect relevant laws, regulations and working mechanisms and join hands to severely punish the smuggling, acquisition, processing and sales of foreign waste in accordance with the law. The government could investigate the import of waste by enterprises through integrating environmental law enforcement, monitoring and solid waste management and with the use of on-site exploration and sampling. Apart from asset confiscation and fines, waste smugglers must bear criminal liability.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in Legal Daily on January 2, 2018)