Recyclers of metal and plastic throughout China are reacting to a Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) campaign they say is targeting their sector with inspections, fines and threats to suspend or withdraw business licenses. At the same time, China’s Customs department also is conducting inspections it says are tied to anti-smuggling efforts.
Recyclers in three different Chinese cities, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say MEP inspectors are visiting facilities throughout their regions, scrutinizing paperwork and hunting for any signs of unwelcome air or wastewater emissions. One recycler in South China reports having seen an MEP document outlining the extensive inspection campaign.
Scrap metal and plastic traders in China report a slowdown in buying and selling activity in early July as facility operators either react to inspection or, if they have not yet received a visit, prepare for one.
In mid-June, Steve Wong, president of the China Scrap Plastics Association (CSPA), reported on one local inspection effort in Shantou City in South China’s Guangdong Province. “A joint-action team of 172 people, consisting of the Customs of Shantou City, AQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine), MEP and the Industry & Commerce Department, seized 85,000 tons of smuggled [material] with a value of 1 billion Chinese yuan ($147 million) and exposing five organized illegal gangs,” says Wong.
The material seized, says Wong, “was primarily plastic and metal scrap from 16 warehouses in different locations in Guangdong Province. The suspects were arrested and were found to be illegally using third-party import permits for plastic scrap imports.”
Wong says these inspections or raids “stemmed from the implementation of the National Sword action plan beginning early [in 2017] as a regular effort in combating illegal [scrap materials] smuggling. Wong says a news video recapping the raids can be found here.
The MEP is touting its overall increased anti-pollution efforts in the Chinese media, including in a recent online article posted by the government-run Xinhua news agency.
In that report, the MEP was characterized as having worked with local governments in early 2017 to have “addressed more environmental pollution cases in the first five months of this year than the same period in 2016.” From January to May, says Xinhua, local governments investigated and dealt with 13,478 violations of the law and regulations, up 201 percent year on year, citing the MEP as having provided those figures.
MEP says it worked with local authorities to issue 510 million Chinese yuan ($74.5 million) in fines in the course of 995 cases or inspections undertaken. The greatest amount of such activity occurred in Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces, according to Xinhua.