1. Current status of China solid waste pollution and countermeasures

In China, solid waste is divided into five classes: “industrial solid waste”, “household waste”, “building waste”, “agricultural solid waste” and “hazardous waste”. According to Article 124 of the Solid Waste Environmental Pollution Control Law revised in April 2020, the definition of each class is as follows.

Classification of solid waste and its definition:

  • Solid Waste
    Things whose value at possession has been lost through production, life and other activities, and goods and materials such as discarded  solid and semi-solid things despite some value for use being remaining , or goods and materials such as gases in which are contained in package, and goods and substances that are regulated by laws and administrative regulations to be incorporated into solid waste management.
    Excludes those that have achieved national compulsory standards by detoxification processing and do not harm public health and ecological safety, or are judged not to be solid waste by the solid waste discrimination standard.
  • Industrial solid waste
    Solid waste generated by industrial activities.
  • Household waste
    Solid waste generated to provide daily life services or spend daily life, and solid waste that is considered to be household waste by laws and administrative regulations.
  • Building waste
    Waste soil, waste materials and other solid waste generated in the processes such as new construction, renovations, extensions. demolition and remodeling of buildings, by construction companies and engineering companies.
  • Agricultural solid waste
    Solid waste generated by agricultural production activities
  • Hazardous waste
    Solid waste that has been identified as dangerous based on the National Hazardous Waste List or the national hazardous waste identification standards and methods.

In the “13th Five-Year Ecological Environment Conservation Plan” announced in November 2016, the Chinese government will raise the total utilization rate of industrial solid waste nationwide to 73% by 2020 for solid waste. Targets such as improving the treatment level of hazardous waste were also submitted. According to the survey report in 2019, however, it turned out that the production of general industrial solid waste in 200 big and middle cities in 2018 amounted to 1.55 billion tons, and the total utilization was 860 million. The amount of industrial hazardous waste generated was 46.43 million tons, the total amount of reused waste is 23.673 million tons, and the average total use rate was 55.4%. Therefore, Chinese government claimed it necessary to further strengthen the management and implementation of solid wastes.

On the other hand, in response to the situation where the conventional acceptance of waste from overseas threatens the health of the people and ecological environment, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China announced in July 2017, “Prohibition of domestic import of foreign waste and promotion of reform of solid waste import control system. “Implementation plan” was announced, and a policy was announced to ban the import of foreign wastes that have had a great impact on the environment. In particular, regarding waste plastics, imports of domestic waste plastics will be banned from 2018, and imports of industrial waste plastics will also be banned from 2019. It is going to be very confusing for the countries that have depended largely on exporting solid wastes to China.

Besides, in December 2018, the State Council promulgated the “Pilot Work Plan for Construction of’ No waste City'”. In the pilot city, it was stipulated to limit the production, sale or use of non-decomposable plastic bags and tableware, and to expand the range of applications of degradable plastic products.

In January 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission of China and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment promulgated “Opinions on Further Strengthening of Plastic Pollution Control”, which indicates a policy to strengthen laws and regulations on plastics in China. Goals for plastic pollution prevention in the future were also presented.

Furthermore, in April 2020, the National People’s Congress of China passed the revised version of the “Solid Waste Pollution Environment Prevention Law” and officially promulgated it. Compared to its old version, the revised law clearly presented that, we will prohibit and restrict the sale and use of single-use plastic products such as plastic bags that cannot be decomposed, and promote the spread of recyclable, easy-to-recover and degradable alternative products.


2. Framework of Solid waste law regulations

Regarding measures to prevent solid waste pollution, the initial legal provisions related to solid waste pollution in China are found in the “Environmental Protection Law (Trial)” enforced in 1979, but they were limited to the basic principles. After that, in 1995, as the first law specializing in solid waste pollution, the “Solid Waste Environmental Pollution Prevention Law,” was enacted, and based on this, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the Residential City Rural Construction Department, which are all under the jurisdiction of the State Council, have performed their own management functions within their respective authority. The law stipulates the legal liability of pollutant emitters, and is positioned as a basic law in the field of solid waste pollution prevention measures.

The law has been amended in 2004, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2020.

China’s legal and regulatory framework for solid waste pollution prevention consist of the higher-level laws such as “Solid Waste Environmental Pollution Prevention Law,” “Clean Production Promotion Law,” and “Circular Economy Promotion Law,” and individual administrative laws, action plans and emission standards for solid waste which were developed based on these higher-level laws.