China has reorganised the department responsible for recycling and waste imports with a beefed-up Ministry of Ecological Environment (MEE).
In China’s biggest government reshuffle in years, the new ministry retains the powers of the former Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and takes on the responsibilities of six other government departments related to the environment.
In recent years, MEP has led crackdowns on waste imports through limiting permits and licences, imposing tougher contamination limits and banning grades of some secondary materials, notably affecting mixed papers and post-consumer plastic.
MEE is headed by Li Ganjie, who told a news conference that these powers included tackling climate change and emission reduction, marine pollution, and agricultural pollution.
He said the reform was “an historic move to further promote the construction and management of China’s eco-environmental system”.
He told reporters at a press conference that the import restrictions were likely to cause chaos due to the quick implementation of the National Sword policy.
But he added that Chinese authorities had been working with the international community to alleviate the impact.
According to Ganjie, around 1,000 businesses have had action taken against them by Chinese authorities.
He said: ”Every country has the obligation to treat its own hazardous and other wastes.”
The new ministry plans to set up a nationwide inspection system, with regular checks on polluting companies and factories, as well as the approach of local and national government departments.
The minister announced that 1,048 officials, including three at or above vice-ministerial level, would be punished for failing to fulfill environmental protection duties spotted during earlier inspections, signalling a stronger desire to hold officials accountable.
Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum in Washington and an expert on the country’s environmental policy told China Daily: “China’s landfills are bulging, illegal waste dumping is a growing headache and the favoured solution among city governments－to incinerate－is creating health and pollution problems.”
Turner said dozens of cities had been selected by the government to test mandatory “garbage sorting” while others were “ voluntarily experimenting with sorting and recycling to address the public’s growing concerns about incinerators”.