China vows to crack down on illegal garbage imports

BEIJING, Jan 24 (Reuters) - China promised on Wednesday to crack down on illegal imports of foreign garbage after media reports in London said Britain had dumped millions of tonnes of waste into the country.

Britain's Sunday Mirror said Britain disposed of 1.9 million tonnes of garbage in China every year, casting a "harsh light on China's booming rubbish imports and their baleful influence" on the environment, the China Daily reported this week.

"Driven by profits, some dealers collaborate with overseas law breakers and illegally smuggle or import rubbish into China, causing damage to people's health and to the environment," an official from the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said on its Web site (

A Chinese report released last year showed that rubbish imports from abroad had grown steadily in the past decade.

It said 70 percent of the electronic waste produced around the world each year now found its way illegally into China, and 90 percent of such waste was broken down in small workshops.

"Because these workshops tend to employ very basic technology, large amounts of dangerous materials end up getting released into their surroundings," the China Daily said.

It said Guiyu, a town in the booming southern province of Guangdong, was a victim of such pollution, with no potable water available and more than 80 percent of children suffering from lead poisoning.

SEPA was discussing the issue with the European Union, the official said, and China would step up supervision on waste imports and processing.

British press reports said the rubbish trade was facilitated by the many thousands of containers used to ship Chinese exports to Europe each year, which then must be returned empty to their port of origin unless a paying cargo can be found.

One report in the Guardian daily said British companies offloaded hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic rubbish, paper and cardboard annually on to China, as well as thousands of tonnes of unwashed bottles, cans and other household waste.