China expands crackdown on illegal waste imports, 39 more arrested: customs

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has expanded a crackdown on the import of waste materials, arresting 39 suspects and seizing 33,000 tonnes of plastic and mineral waste during the latest round, the customs service said on Tuesday.

Early this year, China launched the campaign against harmful “foreign garbage” as part of Beijing’s efforts to improve environmental conditions.

On its website, customs said that after three rounds of “concentrated crackdown” on illegal import of waste, it has arrested 259 suspects for importing 303,000 tonnes of unlawful waste materials.

The General Administration of Customs and local police have collaborated to deepen the crackdown in five provinces, including Guangdong, and cities including Shanghai.

Suspects have smuggled waste plastics and minerals and sold them to unqualified domestic plants, while the latter have failed to comply with the criteria by processing the waste, causing harm to the air, water and soil.

China is a major importer of waste, and some imports remain legal. Last year, it imported 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics, valued at $3.7 billion, accounting for 56 percent of world imports.

From the start of 2018, traders will not be allowed to import scrap copper.

Authorities in Xiamen recently seized over 1,400 tonnes of imported zinc waste, China News Service reported.

Reporting by Ruby Lian and Josephine Mason; Editing by Richard Borsuk