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80 detained in Chinese Customs raids

June 16, 2020

China continues its drive to restrict waste imports like used plastics with further raids and arrests, but COVID-19 throws a curveball. 

In the latest round of crackdowns on smuggled foreign waste, reports that Chinese customs seized over 1.04 million tonnes of illegal trash imports Wednesday (10th June) in the latest round of crackdown on smuggled foreign waste.

Customs officers detained 80 suspects and broke up 38 smuggling rings during the raid in nine provincial regions.

China imported nearly 3.23 million tonnes of solid waste in the first five months of the year, down 45.2% from the same period of last year, according to the statement.

The country 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 weak capacity in garbage disposal. Some companies have profited by illegally bringing foreign waste into the country, posing a threat to the environment and public health.

GAC said it will strengthen international law enforcement cooperation, step up efforts to crack down on smuggling to keep the skies blue, the waters clear and the land pollution-free.

In the toner and inkjet segment, imported toner and inkjet products can be imported into China by authorised importers and where the products are clearly a resource for reuse and not just waste.

In April 2019 The Recycler reported that Qiu Qiwen, Director of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s solid waste division announced that “China will further tighten restrictions of waste imports and eventually aims to realise zero waste imports by 2020.”

Qiu explained that products not included on the current banned list would also be restricted by next year, although high-quality material would not be forbidden: “If the solid waste […] meets the requirements of China’s import standards and doesn’t contain any hazards, then it can be treated as common commodities, not waste.”

The COVID-19 curveball is that now China is short of some waste streams like copper because of a slowdown in the collection and processing of scrap. Reuters reports that “waste imports fell further to just 210,000 tonnes in the first quarter of this year.”

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