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China unveils plan to control hazardous waste

By Wu Wencong  (China Daily)

10:39, November 03, 2012

China's first official plan for hazardous-waste control was released on Thursday.

Four ministries, including the Environmental Protection Ministry, published the plan, which aims to determine the exact amount and distribution of hazardous waste nationwide; to increase the level of standardized management; and to reduce the environmental risk it might bring by 2015.

Hazardous waste is waste generated during the improper operation, storage, transportation and disposal that poses a major threat to people's health and the environment. Such material includes medical waste, chemical waste and heavy-metal waste.

According to the plan, a rough picture of the distribution of enterprises generating such waste was gained through the first national census on pollution sources in 2007.

But information about where the waste goes, how the disposal facilities work, and the types and amounts of the waste generated in past decades is unclear.

"No one is aware of the exact amount of hazardous waste we need to deal with now," said Wang Qi, head of the institute of environmental engineering technology of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, and an expert on solid-waste treatment.

For example, in 2007, the bulletin of the first national census on pollution sources revealed that hazardous waste produced by industrial pollution sources exceeded 45 million metric tons.

But according to figures in "The State of Environment in China in 2007", industrial sources were responsible for only slightly more than 10 million tons of hazardous waste.

Both data came from the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

In "The State of Environment in China in 2011", an annual report which was released by the ministry in June, this figure was not even mentioned.

But the Thursday plan confirmed a continued growing trend of hazardous waste in the next few years.

"By 2015, the yearly generated hazardous waste will exceed 60 million tons," said Zhong Bin, head of the solid-waste sector at the pollution emission control department of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

The corresponding disposal capacity nationwide right now is only about 23 million tons, with a load rate of less than 40 percent.

Pollution caused by hazardous waste has been frequently reported in recent years, attracting attention from the public, especially after the chromium residue pollution incident in Southwest China's Yunnan province in 2011. The plan said the estimated amount of soil being polluted by chromium residue alone is about 15 million cubic meters.

Detailed targets of the plan include controlling chromium residue pollution, and also finishing the construction of 334 centralized disposal facilities of medical waste and hazardous waste, as set in another layout in 2004.

"The construction work of the 334 facilities was supposed to be finished by 2006, but they are still ongoing now," said Wang Qi from the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

The total amount of money required for 14 key programs is 26.1 billion yuan ($4.18 billion), which is estimated to bring an output of more than 200 billion yuan to the hazardous-waste recycling industry, according to the plan.

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