The waste ban in China – what happened next? Assessing the impact of new policies on the waste management sector in China

Na Song, Iain McLellan, Wei Liu, Zhenghua Wang, Andrew Hursthouse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The 2017 ban on the waste import and new policies for the waste management sector in mainland China had wide-spread impact. After decades of poor environmental and public health impacts from the sector, a study is needed which focuses on policies updates and waste management. This provides a direction for the survival of local waste management industries and consider similarities with the ban promulgated in China on the restriction of waste import from other countries. We review the waste management situation in China before national legislation prevented the import of waste, highlight the status of landfill mining in China, and review the dynamics of domestic policies before and after the promulgation of the ban in China. The impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the waste management system is starting to emerge, providing both challenges and opportunities for the sector in China. We see the impact of the ban on the range of imported waste and domestically generated materials. The ban results in price increases for domestic recycling that forces companies to introduce more formal recycling processes and to drive the consumption behaviours to more reasonable and environmentally friendly options. The driver in China is to reduce pollution in the environment and improve health, but a negative impact has been from increased landfill mining which has impeded the original aim of the waste ban and requires further technological development. The dynamic of domestic policies in China shows higher level of activity of updates and revisions or introduction of new policies from 2015 onwards and the concept of 'zero waste cities' brings new hope for improvement of the Chinese waste management system. The pandemic also suggests an important step to establish sustainable management systems despite evidence of increased "fly-tipping". The rebound of the waste ban may have stimulated in the short term negative impacts on local environments both in China and internationally.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Early online date18 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • solid waste
  • waste regulation
  • waste import
  • small business
  • covid19
  • impact on waste

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