Hazardous waste is defined as waste that has one or more risks, such as toxicity, corrosiveness, flammability, reactivity, and infectivity, and can have harmful impacts on ecological environment and human health[1]. According to the statistics of Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), the amount of hazardous waste generated in China has increased rapidly from 8.3 million tons in 2000 to 74.17 million tons in 2019, environmentally sound management of hazardous waste has become to an important issue. Especially since the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste was revised in 2020, a series of related policies promulgated and implemented in response to related management requirements, further strengthening the management of hazardous waste.

The revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste stresses the prevention of hazardous waste generation, and clarifies new management requirements such as informatization of management, standardization of identification signs, and standardization of storage. In order to response to these new management requirements, formulation and revision of regulations and standards related to hazardous waste has been accelerated, and the cracks down on illegal activities such as illegal storage, transfer, dumping, disposal, etc., have been strengthened.

China entered into the 14th “Five-Year-Plan” period in 2021, and the management of hazardous waste is now one of the most important issues for this period. According to the Circular to Further Promoting the Battle to Prevent and Control Pollution, during the 14th “Five-Year-Plan” period, the regulatory focus of hazardous waste will be the management of environmental risk among related businesses and industrial parks, cracks down on illegal transfer, dumping and disposal.

Policies that should be paid attention to in the future are Regulations on the Hazardous Waste Environmental License,” and Regulations on Hazardous Waste Transfer. These two regulations are important in hazardous waste management, the revision drafts of both were released in the latter half of 2020, and has not been officially released yet.

 

Important policy moves related to hazardous waste to be noted in the previous year

In November 2020, the National Hazardous Waste List was revised and came into force on January 1, 2021, with some amendments on the application scope and the management measures, which have brought a big impact on related industries. Subsequently, regulations/standards related to hazardous waste were issued  as follows:

Timeline of regulations related to hazardous waste since October 2020

  1. November 27, 2020: National Hazardous Waste List (revised).
  2. December 31, 2020: Circular on Promoting the Management Informatization of Hazardous Waste.
  3. May 25, 2021: Implementation Plan to Strengthen the Reform of Supervision, Recycle and Disposal Capacity of Hazardous Waste.
  4. September 1,2021: Work Plan for National Hazardous Waste Standardized Environmental Management Evaluation in the 14th Five-Year-Plan Period.
  5. September 7, 2021: Circular on Strengthening the Identification of Hazardous Waste.
  6. September 28, 2021: Hazardous waste management exclusion list (2021version) (draft for comments).
  7. September 29, 2021: Standards for Pollution Control on Hazardous Waste Storage(the 2nd draft for comments), Technical Specification for Placing of Identification Signs of hazardous waste (draft for comments), Environmental Management Plans and Records Technical Specification for Hazardous Waste Generator (draft for comments), Technical Specifications for Pollution Control of Waste Denitration Catalyst Regeneration (draft for comments).

Outlines of key regulations

  1. Ministry of Ecology and Environment, National Development and Reform Commission, etc. National Hazardous Waste List (2021 version) (November 27, 2020)
    The National Hazardous Waste List is an important basis for hazardous waste management in China. The first version was released in 1998, followed by revisions in 2008, 2016 and 2020. So this is the third revision. The revised version has come into effect on January 1, 2021.
    The main amendments in 2021 version include:

    • Addition to, merger of classifications, statement changes in the hazardous waste list
      For example, aluminum ash, which had not been taken as hazardous waste before, was added into the 2021 version, which led to changes in the entire supervision processes for aluminum ash, from transfer, storage, treatment, to the final disposal. These changes have brought a huge impact on the industry.
    • Expand the range of hazardous waste exempted from the management requirements
      Based on the requirement to “implement classified management” under the revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste, when the environmental risk can be controlled and specific related requirements are met, some hazardous waste can be exempted from the obligations imposed on hazardous waste management. The list of hazardous waste exempted from the management requirements has been expanded to include 32 types, from 16 types in the past. The aluminum ash mentioned above has also been added into the exemption list, i.e., when aluminum ash is to be recycled, the recycle stage can be exempted from the hazardous waste management.
    • Exemption of applicable requirements by “point to point” one-way utilization*
      The “point to point” one-way utilization* is a supplementary system for the management exemption list, which means even if a certain type of hazardous waste is not listed in the exemption list, or fails to meet exemption requirements stipulated by the exception list, the recycle stage for such waste type can be exempted from the management requirements, pursuant to a plan made by the relevant provincial government provided that the environmental risk can be controlled.
      *“Point to point” one-way utilization refers to that hazardous waste generated by one enterprise can be used as a substitute material by another enterprise.
  2. Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Circular on promoting the management informatization of hazardous waste (December 31, 2020)
    The development of solid waste management information system in China started in 2008, both at national-level and provincial-level. The informatization of hazardous waste management has been speed up in recent years. According to the Circular on Accelerating the Application of National Hazardous Waste Management Information System released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment on February 21, 2019, the digital manifest on waste transfer and disposal should be applied nationwide and online tracking should be achieved for the interprovincial transfer by October 31, 2019. And the Circular on Promoting the Management Informatization of Hazardous Waste requires further promotion of supervision and online tracking in the all processes such as generation, storage, transfer, recycle, disposal, etc. The details are as follows:

    • Promotion of the standardization of hazardous waste generators management.
      From 2021, businesses, whose total amount of hazardous waste generated in the previous year is 10 tons or more, should report relevant information such as hazardous waste types, generation amount, transfer destinations, disposal methods and the management plan for the current year via the solid waste management information system by March 31 every year.
    • Standardization of informatization for businesses with hazardous waste license
      The businesses with hazardous waste license should report related information such as the hazardous waste collection, storage, recycle, disposal performed in the previous year via the solid waste management information system by the end of March every year.
    • Standardization of informatization for hazardous waste export review management.
      Hazardous waste exporters should submit a hazardous waste management plan via the solid waste management information system and register related information in the “export declaration” column on the system.
  3. State Council, Implementation Plan to strengthen the reform of supervision, recycle and disposal capacities for hazardous waste (May 25, 2021)
    In order to solve the problems related to the supervision, management, recycling and disposal capacities for hazardous waste, and to promote the standardization of environmentally sound management thereof, State Council issued the Implementation Plan to Strengthen the Reform of Supervision, Utilization and Disposal Capacities for Hazardous Waste on May 25,2021. The plan defines the short-term objectives and the long-term objectives to be achieved by 2022 and 2025 respectively. By 2022, safety and environmental supervision and management mechanisms for hazardous waste shall be constructed, and the hazardous waste disposal capacity should meet the local needs in every province. By 2025, a supervision and management system for generation source control, process management, illegal activities and punishments shall be constructed.

    • Emphasis on the entity responsibility of related business units
      In business entities, a person who is responsible for business units that generate, collect, store, transfer, recycle and dispose hazardous waste is the primary responsible person to implement pollution prevention measures and safety production of hazardous waste, while observing legal requirements. In addition, they shall disclose the environmental protection related information and join in the environmental pollution liability insurance.
    • Strengthening the supervision and management of transfer process
      The Implementation Plan strengthens the crack down on illegal hazardous waste transfer through a joint linkage of ecological damage compensation system, administrative penalties, criminal justice and prosecution actions. On the other hand, it simplifies the transfer of hazardous waste with the “point-to-point” directive recycle and exemption list systems.
    • Improving the related laws and regulations
      The Implementation Plan requires to develop plans to improve the hazardous waste license management and the management system, to revise the pollution prevention standards related to hazardous waste storage, incineration, identification, etc.
  4. Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Work plan for national hazardous waste standardized environmental management evaluation in 14th “Five-Year-Plan” period (September 1,2021)
    Based on the related requirements of revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste and the Implementation Plan to Strengthen the Reform of Supervision, Recycle and Disposal Capacity of Hazardous Waste, the MEE released the Work Plan for National Hazardous Waste Standardized Environmental Management Evaluation in the 14th Five-Year-Plan Period on September 1, 2021. The plan stipulates the evaluation indicators, evaluation requirements, handling of results, etc., for local ecology and environment management departments, hazardous waste generators and operators separately. The following is an excerpt of the contents related to hazardous waste generators.

    • Evaluation targets
      Key businesses that generate more than 100 tons hazardous waste annually, or have intrafirm hazardous disposal facilities.
    • Evaluation indicators
      In order to encourage business entities to steadily carry out their responsibilities of preventing pollution of hazardous waste, “plus items” were added in the index. For example, if a business sets cameras in a hazardous waste related project, 0.5 points will be added, if a business provides training to employees, 0.5 points will be added, and if a business joins in the environmental pollution liability insurance, 1.0 point will be added.
      At the same time, “veto items” were also added in the indices, once any item listed in the “veto items” was found in a business, the evaluation result would be adjudged to “fail to meet standard” for the business. For example, if a business was found transferring or dumping hazardous waste without permission, or transferring hazardous waste to an operator without hazardous waste license, the evaluation would be adjudged to “fail to meet standard”, in addition, related administrative and criminal responsibilities will be prosecuted.
    • Application of evaluation results
      Provincial level ecology and environment management departments are encouraged to add businesses that have reached the standards for hazardous waste management or with high environmental management levels into the positive list of legally compliant businesses, and reduce the inspection frequencies for them.
      On the other hand, for the illegal activities found during the inspection, administrative and criminal penalties will be imposed based on related laws and regulations.
  5. Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Circular on Strengthening the Identification of Hazardous Waste (September 7, 2021)
    On September 7,2021, the MEE released the Circular on Strengthening the Identification of Hazardous waste”. Hazardous waste identification is an important method to identify the danger of solid waste and is the basis for hazardous waste management and pollution prevention. The circular was made to solve problems such as high identification fees, excessively long time required for identification, lack of consistency in the procedures and items to be reported, insufficient application of identification results.

    • Solid waste that should be identified
      • Solid waste generated during production that may have risks such as toxicity, corrosiveness, flammability, reactivity, and infectivity that are harmful to the ecological environment and human health.
      • Solid waste that may have risks and should be identified in the environmental impact appraisal according to the Guidelines for Construction Projects Hazardous Waste Environmental Impact Appraisal, and other documents.
      • Solid waste that may have risks based on testing data of MEE
      • Solid waste controlled by other regulations
    • Identification standard
      National Hazardous Waste List, Identification Standards for Hazardous Waste (GB 5085.1~7), Technical Specifications on Identification for Hazardous Waste (HJ 298).
  6. Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Hazardous Waste Management Exclusion list (2021version) (draft for comments) (September 28, 2021)
    The Hazardous Waste Management Exclusion List is an important tool for the hazardous waste identification system, which can reduce the cost related to hazardous waste identification, disposal, management by clarifying the attributes of solid waste that were widely concerned to be hazardous by the society. The formulation of the list started in 2016. After completing two public consultations, the MEE released the Hazardous Waste Management Exclusion List (2021 version) (draft for comments). Types of solid waste, generation sources, detailed description of waste that is excluded from hazardous waste management are described in the List.

    • Solid waste to be included in the exclusion list
      According to the explanatory document of the list, the exclusion list will be dynamically updated, and the following solid waste will be included in the list.

      • Solid waste whose attributes are not specified in the National Hazardous Waste List”.
      • Solid waste that is derived from hazardous waste recycle or disposal processes.
      • Solid waste that was already analyzed completely by industrial organizations.
      • Solid waste whose property is not clear, but has been already identified in many cases.
  7. Ministry of Ecology and Environment, released 4 drafts of hazardous waste related standard (September 29, 2021)
    In response to the hazardous waste management requirements of revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste, the MEE started to accelerate the formulation and revision of related standards. On September 29, 2021, the MEE released 4 drafts of hazardous waste related standard, Standard for pollution control on hazardous waste storage(2nd draft for comments), Technical Specification for Identification Signs Setting of Hazardous Waste (draft for comments), Environmental Management Plans and Records Technical Specification for Hazardous Waste Generator (draft for comments), Technical Specifications for Pollution Control of Waste Denitration Catalyst Regeneration (draft for comments). Among them, only the Standard for Pollution Control on Hazardous Waste Storage is a revision while the other three are newly established standards.

    • Standard for Pollution Control on Hazardous Waste Storage2nd draft for comments
      It’s the first revision for the Standard for Pollution Control on Hazardous Waste Storage since it was released in 2001. The main revisions include subclassification of storage facilities for hazardous waste, clarification of requirements for pollution control for waste water, exhaust gas, noise generated during the storage, and the addition of environmental emergency requirements for hazardous waste storage facilities. According to the revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste, businesses that do not store hazardous waste in accordance with the national standard will be ordered to take correction measures within a given time and to pay a fine. If the situation is very serious, the businesses will be forced to stop operation and even be closed.
    • Technical Specification for Identification Signs Setting of Hazardous Waste (draft for comments)
      The current hazardous waste identification signs, which only specify signs for hazardous waste, storage places, disposal facilities, do not meet the requirements of the revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste., The MEE thus formulated a new standard. The standard will be applied to  identification signs of container, package for hazardous waste (excluding medical waste), and the identification signs of collection, transfer, storage, recycle and disposal facilities for hazardous waste. According to the revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste, businesses that do not set identification signs following the national standard will be ordered to make correction within a given time and to pay a fine. If the situation is very serious, the businesses will be forced to stop operation and even be closed.
    • Environmental Management Plans and Records Technical Specification for Hazardous Waste Generator (draft for comments)”
      The Environmental Management Plans and Records Technical Specification for Hazardous Waste Generator is an important reference for businesses when developing a management plan and record of hazardous waste, which specifies the information required for an environmental management plan and management record and the requirements for declaration implementation reports.
  8. Supplementary information
    In relation to hazardous waste management, there are three important lists in China:

    • Solid waste included in the National Hazardous Waste List belongs to hazardous waste, and should be managed in accordance with the management requirements under hazardous-waste related laws and regulations.
    • Solid waste included in the Hazardous Waste Management Exemption List still belongs to hazardous waste, although under some specific conditions it can be exempted from the requirement of hazardous waste management.
    • Solid waste included in the Hazardous Waste Management Exclusion List does not belong to hazardous waste, and can be managed in accordance with solid waste related laws and regulations.

[1] According to the definition of “National hazardous waste list” (Ministry of Ecology and Environment, National Development and Reform Commission, November 2020)


Index of China EHS

Framework of EHS laws and regulations in China.

Category Theme
Overall Overview, Environmental Standards
China, Organizations with Governing Environmental Regulations
Chemical Chemical Substances Regulation and Management
Waste Waste management
Energy Energy Conservation
Water Water Pollution Prevention
Air Air Pollution Control
Soil Soil Contamination Prevention
Other Pollution Noise, Vibration, Offensive Odor
OSH Occupational Safety and Health