China's top legislature is deliberating the draft amendment to the Law on Solid Waste Pollution Prevention to avoid becoming the "world's largest dumping ground" by tightening control over the mounting trafficking of foreign garbage.
The draft amendment, intended to improve China's management of solid waste, was submitted for the "first deliberation" to the 12th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) held from Oct. 22 to 27.
While China is playing a greater role in world's manufacturing sector, it faces the danger of becoming the world's largest dumping ground, media and experts across the country have repeatedly warned. Many Chinese have been angry with so much imported garbage entering into a country that has plenty of environmental problems of its own.
"The rapid growth of Chinese economy has resulted in a huge market for foreign renewable resources, but China's current regulations cannot maintain effective, systematic management, providing too many opportunities for illegal trafficking," said Wang Jiwei, general secretary of the renewable metal department of China's Nonferrous Metal Association.
China imported 3 million tons of waste plastic in 2003, and 1.88 million additional tons in the first half of 2004, up 31 percent over the same period last year, customs statistics show.
Wang said the proper use of renewable resources like waste iron can greatly reduce pollution and energy consumption of energy -- both vital, as China suffers from both increasing pollution and chronic power shortages.
"How to take advantage of import waste while effectively preventing the entry of hazardous foreign waste is a major task of China's legislature," Wang acknowledged.
China has a basic legal system on waste use, but the current regulations do not fully address the seriousness of the situation for lacking details on use of import waste, said Zhang Lijun, director of pollution control department under the State Environmental Protection Administration.
"The draft amendment pays much more attention to its feasibility after considering the bugs in the current management mechanism," said Mao Rubai, chairman of the Environment and Resources Protection Committee of the NPC.
According to the draft, all imported waste will be classified into three sorts: non-importation, restrictive import and automatic approval, each of which will receive different legal treatment.
All imported waste should accord with the official standard and must receive check of governments, said the draft.
The draft adds clauses imposing criminal penalties on those illegally trafficking imported waste and stipulates the responsibilities of imported waste carriers if holders cannot be identified.
It also includes an independent article stipulating the procedure for resolving disputes between government departments and importers.
"The draft amendment is expected to play an crucial role in lessening imported waste's threat to the country's environment and people's health," said Zhang Lijun, whose department is in charge of the implementation of the law.
It is estimated that more than 500 million tons of toxic wastes were produced around the world per year, a growing portion of which is being transferred to developing countries.
In order to tighten control over imported waste, China added new clauses to its criminal law in 1997 and 2002, introducing punishments to illegal foreign waste importers and users.
China was one of the first countries to join the Basel Convention on the control of cross-border movement and disposal of hazardous waste.