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China's anti-crime drive set out by top regulator

Fresh insight on the significance for exporters of recycled materials of China’s new crackdown on the smuggling of imports has been offered in comments from the head of the ministry of environmental protection (Mep).

Chen Jining’s comments, seen by MRW, were made in early March, shortly after the National Sword initiative was unveiled. The target is illegal operations in China involving the smuggling of weapons and drugs, but scrap plastic, paper and metals are also under its ambit. 

Observers believe it will affect western waste exporters, who will have to pay even greater attention to the quality of recyclates than they have since the 2013 Green Fence initiative.

Chen told reporters that Mep had worked hard during 2016 to tackle illegal activity but his regulators were not achieving their “desired result”.

“The key problem is the lack of execution because the problem factories resume polluting production the minute the Mep inspection team leaves the factory,” he said.

“In 2017, Mep has set a goal to accomplish 100% of its jobs. Casual and uninformed rechecking of obvious problem areas will be conducted by the Central Mep Inspector, the core member of the inspection team.

“This is supported by the local environmental protection department for all-round and systematic implementation of ’recheck’.”

2000 steve wong

2000 steve wong

According to Steve Wong, president of the Beijing-based China Scrap Plastics Association and a senior member of the Bureau of International Recycling, the impact on exporters will be “immense”.

He wrote for MRW about the crackdown ahead of Chen’s comments, saying ”imported waste, in particular e-waste and plastic waste fractions, has been highlighted as ‘foreign waste’ and identified as an origin of severe pollution, caused partly as a result of the recycling being carried out at small workshops without proper facilities”.

Chen also sets out how environmental regulation will be carried out by local agents, under the supervision of the central Mep, and “stern views will be taken on violations”. 

Penalty measures would include the seizure of an illegal factory, suspension or restricted production, and daily penalties. Police training and knowledge would be improved.

Mep will also “create a mechanism for public participation in reporting the deviation of compliance by enterprises, which will be exposed to public”, complementing an online whistleblower scheme introduced in October 2016.

Despite the limited language of the translation, it is clear the department intends to develop a multi-agency approach and strengthen the law enforcement powers on local regulators.

It also pledges to enforce regulations more vigorously through continued inspections and “zero compromise on rule violations”.

A more rigorous and detailed permitting system is being promised.

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