November 2, 2017 / 1:27 AM / in 4 months

China must make polluters pay for waste treatment: legislator

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China needs to improve law enforcement and make polluters pay to treat billions of tonnes of rural, industrial and household waste, the country’s top legislator said in a report to parliament late on Wednesday.

Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC), said China generates nearly 4 billion tonnes of waste a year from livestock and poultry as well as 200 million tonnes of household waste in large and medium-sized cities.

China also produces 3.3 billion tonnes of industrial waste every year, including tailings from mines, with the accumulated volume now amounting to 60 billion to 70 billion tonnes nationwide, he said.

“There are currently many weak links in the management of hazardous waste in our country, and it needs to be improved urgently,” Zhang said in an address.

FILE PHOTO: A clamshell shovel prepares to carry kitchen waste at a garbage incineration plant on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 30, 2017. Picture taken on March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Rural waste is “an even weaker link”, he said, with basic environmental infrastructure seriously insufficient. He added that 57 percent of villages lacked basic disposal and treatment systems while nearly 40 percent of animal waste isn’t properly disposed of or utilized.

Inspection teams sent out earlier this year to look at the enforcement of China’s solid waste laws had found that local authorities were not taking enough responsibility for the problem. Local governments also needed to improve the way rules were enforced, he said.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a respiratory protection mask walks toward an office building during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

China is expected to require as much as 10 trillion yuan ($1.5 trillion) in investment in environmental infrastructure over the 2016-2020 period, and will spend nearly 60 billion yuan on upgrading and extending sewage systems. Domestic and overseas firms have been positioning themselves to take part.

But Zhang said new financing methods were required, including new taxes and payment mechanisms for polluters, with governments and society now bearing too much of the burden on treatment costs. Public-private partnerships should also be set up to invest in waste treatment, he said.

Earlier this year, China introduced new rules aimed at improving recycling rates in key industries like electronics, plastics, textiles and household appliances, and it also banned imports of solid waste, which amounted to nearly 50 million tonnes a year.

But as it cracks down on illegal, polluting backstreet recycling plants, it has struggled to create the incentives to encourage industrial-scale recycling enterprises to fill the gap, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in August.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Richard Pullin

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