Employees of Shenzhen Customs display seized solid industrial waste which was smuggled into China.
China notified the World Trade Organization on Tuesday it will ban the import of 24 different types of solid waste shipments by the end of this year, as part of a campaign to tackle environmental pollution, Reuters reported.
The import ban, which will go into effect at the end of 2017, includes plastics, slag from steelmaking, vanadium slag, unsorted scrap paper and discarded textile materials. According to China's WTO filing, the list has been adjusted to protect the country's environment and the public's health.
"The move shows that the government is stepping up the fight against pollution and environmental degradation as decades of fast growth have caused the country to be saddled with polluted air, and contaminated soil and water," said Xue Rongjiu, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Society for World Trade Organization Studies.
China has been importing large amounts of plastic waste as raw materials for industrial production. In 2016, China imported 7.3 million metric tons of plastic waste worth .7 billion, accounting for more than half of global imports, according to data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
He Jingtong, a professor of trade at Nankai University in Tianjin, said China is sending a clear signal to the WTO that the country no longer wishes to import foreign garbage and it is determined to crack down on all types of criminal activities.
Even though China's law on the control of solid waste bans imports that cannot be used as raw materials or recycled through harmless means high profits, however, have pushed many people and companies to carry out smuggling activities, and often partner with overseas organizations.
The central government approved a reform plan in April to improve management of solid waste imports to protect environmental security and public health.
The United States, Japan, Italy, France and Germany were the top exporters of waste, according to a report published in 2016 by the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection launched a special campaign to crack down on pollution in imported waste processing this month.
The month-long campaign, which started on July 1, came as the country saw serious pollution caused by a number of small companies processing imported waste, the ministry said.
A total of 420 inspectors had been selected from 27 provincial regions to form 60 teams to conduct full-scale examinations. They will focus on whether enterprises have passed environmental evaluations, violated rules in pollutant discharge, or illegally transferred waste imports, among other aspects.
Ningbo, a coastal city in East China's Zhejiang province, returned a total of 80.23 million tons of foreign garbage between January and June, while Shandong province returned 45 million tons of waste, including 8 million of medical waste.