China plans to strengthen the governance of hazardous waste by making it mandatory for each region to plan adequate disposal facilities, which may help address the uneven distribution of such facilities across the country.
The draft amendment to the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste was submitted to national legislators for deliberation as the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress kicked off its bimonthly session on Tuesday.
“The governments of provincial regions are required to draft planning for the construction of facilities and sites for concentrated disposal of hazardous waste and ensure that all such waste in their jurisdictions are disposed of adequately,” said Li Ganjie, minister of ecology and environment, as he reported the amendment to legislators.
According to Li’s ministry, roughly 40 million metric tons of industrial hazardous waste was generated in 202 major cities across the country in 2017. Qiu Qiwen, head of the solid waste and chemicals management department at the ministry, said at a news conference in March that the country’s capacity for hazardous waste treatment in 2017 reached 75 million tons, 2.3 times that of 2012.
He said, however, that the capacity is “unevenly distributed” nationwide, which has lead to high disposal prices in some areas.
According to a 2018 report of Shanghai-headquartered NDRC China Envirunion of Strategic Engineering Industries, the price of incinerating hazardous waste was estimated at 2,000 ($291) to 5,000 yuan per ton from 2015 to 2016, with big price fluctuations among regions. The price, however, rocketed to 15,000 yuan by the end of 2018.
Wang Dongming, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, also suggested making construction of the disposal facilities mandatory for provincial governments.
“The draft only includes the government’s responsibility in drafting plans, but not the construction. This is not adequate enough,” he said in the session.
He also advised broadening market access to some extent so that more companies could enter the sector to enhance capacity for hazardous waste disposal.
Cao Jianming, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said he suggested making safety impact assessments mandatory for the construction of projects related to the storage, utilization and disposal of solid waste. Solid waste, especially hazardous waste, not only poses an environmental risk but also a risk to the public.
The draft amendment includes the establishment of an information-based supervision system that supports leveled and classified hazardous waste governance and could facilitate the sharing of data regarding the transfer of such waste.
Jiang Jianguo, a professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Environment, said some of the transfer information at the grassroots environmental watchdog is recorded on paper, and it takes time for higher level environmental authorities to get the information. The information-based supervision system could help the environmental departments of a higher level get real-time information. “This will greatly improve the efficiency in hazardous waste management,” he said.
In addition, the draft amendment said the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, along with other government bodies, will draft guidelines to strengthen the transregional transfer of hazardous waste. Those involved in such waste collection, storage, transportation, utilization and disposal will have to buy compulsory environmental pollution liability insurance.