China’s ban on foreign solid waste in effect

World Today

China is taking another major step in cleaning up the environment. There’s a new ban on several types of solid waste from foreign countries.

But, some have questioned whether the decision may hurt China’s recycling industry. 

CGTN’s Mark Fontes reports.

China has told the world “enough of your garbage.” Twenty-four types of foreign solid waste are no longer being imported. The U.S. and Europe feel the impact most.

But Chinese officials said with landfills overflowing, it was time to cry foul.

“The new ban promotes environmental protection,” said Lu Fenglin, of the Guangzhou Environmental Protection Department.  “Here in Guangdong province, we are following the central government’s orders to promote the construction of ecological civilization.”

The now banned substances are items most people throw out every day, like plastics, and assorted types of paper.

Most are recyclable.

But some experts said even the globe’s greenest products leave behind at least 25 percent waste. And they add that the world’s largest country can now only take care of its own.

“China is entering a new era,” said Lu. “People hate the so-called ‘foreign garbage.’  We need to follow the will of the people and put environmental protection on the agenda.”

With strict limits on what China can now take in, customs officers have their inspection work cut out for them

“We anticipate that, at first, there will still be high demand for imported solid waste,” said Qiu Liang of Guangzhou Customs.  “Some may try to smuggle banned items in the cargo, so we will pay special attention to everything we inspect.”

At an inspection site in Guangzhou, the trucks pass through a scanner. That’s where they root out all types of solid waste, especially the 24 types that are now part of the ban.

“We follow the “three 100 percent” rule.” said Qui Liang.  “We weigh 100 percent of the containers, scan 100 percent of them through the X-ray like portal, then if we find something abnormal, we manually inspect 100 percent of the cargo.”

In 2016, China brought in more than 23 billion yuan worth of foreign solid waste.

But that amounts to just a small fraction of China’s overall GDP, and experts said companies that relied on solid waste for salvageable materials won’t suffer under the ban.

“Many companies have already gone abroad and built their recycling factories in other countries,” said Lu Fenglin of the Guangzhou Environmental Protection Department.  “Some have started to make use of domestic waste in China. The new ban shall have little overall effect on the economy.”

And those abroad are finding alternative solutions.

Jim Fish, CEO of Waste Management Inc. said “this ban is expected to have a minimal impact” on U.S. solid waste. From incineration to storing waste elsewhere.” He said the ban will help countries actively pursue other options. However, anyone now found in violation of China’s ban faces steep penalties.

“Violators face several fines, and up to five years in prison,” explains Liu Yingzi of the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of Guangzhou Customs. “In some serious cases, they face at least five years behind bars, and higher fines.

For a complete list of the 24 banned types of solid waste, visit