The first round of follow-up inspections from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) ended last month with 22,561 companies requested to take corrective actions. In Henan 1015 people were found accountable of environmental violations and in Guangdong 162 individuals were put into custody. The province of Jiangsu is not left behind with a total of 240 million yuan (30 million euros) distributed in fines. So far the authorities have been mainly focusing on water and air pollutant emissions. However supervision teams pointed out another major issue: waste treatment and disposal. Indeed many disposal and treatment facilities are today inadequate, posing issues for both industrial and domestic waste.
Zhaotong “garbage mountain” incident
In Zhaotong, Yunnan, the inspection team already investigated on the garbage disposal station after receiving complaints. The locals residents reported a pollution of the surrounding farmlands and strong odors generated. At that time the municipal government was required to solve the issue and promised to build an incineration power station. However two years later, during the re-inspection, the situation had worsened and nearby roadside and fields were still littered . The city produces 400 tons of garbage daily and the capacity of its landfill is far from meeting the needs.
On the 10th of July, less than a week after the re-inspection, the “garbage mountain” collapsed on two children who were looking for thrown away toys. The tragic incident became viral on the social media and brought once again the issue of waste disposal under the spotlights.
Garbage disposal a national wide growing issue
Whereas garbage disposal supervision was mainly enforced for Shanghai area, it was found to be a prominent issue in many provinces during the latest inspections. The ever increasing amount of waste is making many treatment facilities inadequate, whilst fueling littering, illegal landfills and incineration.
The examples are numerous such as in Guangdong, Shantou and Jieyang, where the quantity of garbage generated, (approximately 4,800 tons daily), has outpaced the treatment capacity by almost 80%. In Xinyang, Henan, the garbage disposal facilities are also lagging behind and a local government was proven to falsify in and out records to cover up the facts. Heibei’s Dasha river embankment used to be a lush area, now a “garbage belt” has formed on up to 3 kilometers containing domestic, industrial and medical waste. The leakage from waste is also a serious issue such as in Shangrao Jiangxi where sewage volume exceeds the standard authorized. Similar situation was found in a landfill in Harbin which tried to cover up its leaking pollutants.
The state strengthens supervision of solid waste
Since the beginning of the year 2018, a number national-wide law and action plans on solid waste were introduced. It includes: the ban on the Foreign solid waste entry, the revision of the PRC law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes, the Special Remediation Action Plan for compliant discharge from waste incineration power plants. Some plans are more localized such as in Yangtze River economic belt with the cracking down on illegal transfer and disposal of solid waste. Those acts aim at improving the sorting, collection and transportation system for garbage. To strengthen the supervision, the MEE also organized in May this year the “Waste-off action 2018”. They inspected 2,796 solid waste storage sites of the Yangtze River and found 1308 problems.
This reinforcement of the regulation and supervision is affecting garbage treatment facilities but not only. The producing factories are also impacted as they need to find qualified collectors and treatment facilities to dispose industrial waste.
A major turn in waste disposal industry
Presently, the supply of hazardous waste treatment on the market is far lower than the demand. Moreover, the enterprises dealing with hazardous waste in China are generally small, and the processing capacity is limited. Many of them using simple or obsolete technologies are deemed as sub-standard under the new regulations. They will be gradually eliminated during the supervision efforts. This, in addition with the strict governmental supervision on the quota per treatment facility, will make it difficult for surviving entities to cope with the increasing volumes of waste.The factories that need to comply with the rules will likely face a difficult situation by the end of the year. Overall, production factories will be facing a risk of suspension or heavy penalties for illegal disposal of hazardous waste.
What should you check to ensure the factory is compliant:
– Has a hazardous waste transfer contract been signed with a hazardous waste treatment facility?
– Is the contracting hazardous waste treatment facility qualified?
At Responsabilitas, we develop environmental and social auditing services for China. These help you to reduce the risk on compliance in your supply chain but also to establish a baseline for progress. Please contact us if you need more information: