Chinese customs officials seized 6,000 tonnes of waste tailings in March as part of the new ‘green fence’ approach.
A Chinese government-linked website reported that eight people have been detained in Shanghai in two cases for allegedly smuggling the materials under fake documents that labelled them as metal ores.
Operation Green Fence is a policy to rigidly enforce rules on waste importation in a bid to improve the quality of materials that flow into China.
The China.org.cn website said that since February customs officers have rejected 383 containers of foreign waste.
It said they detected excessive amounts of arsenic and cadmium from the tailings, which came mainly from countries in western Asia and eastern Europe.
Shanghai’s customs have also intercepted 115 tonnes of waste tyres, which are banned imports in China.
Meanwhile the Recycling Association has defended China’s action in rejecting foreign waste that does not meet its quality standards.
Chief executive Simon Ellin said: “For the UK to continue the sustainable growth of our recycling industry, we need to ensure that we work to the highest possible standards to protect our position as a leading exporter to China.
“Using recovered paper as an example, the UK currently supplies circa 10% of China’s requirements, and, if we are going to retain the volumes we currently supply, we simply must meet the environmental and quality standards of our end markets.”
He said the Chinese requirements “of less than 1.5% out throw is not unreasonable and is attainable” and added that operators not focussed on quality, “are in for a rude awakening”.