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MONDAY, November 28, 2022
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E-waste leads the way in China’s recycling progress

E-waste leads the way in China’s recycling progress

WEDNESDAY, May 09, 2018

China has increased the subsidy for recycling e-waste – discarded electrical and electronic devices – by more than 300 per cent year-on-year as it phases out the importation of overseas waste, which decreased last year by 12 per cent.

Industry insiders have warned of the challenges the country faces to fill the gap resulting from the solid waste import ban. Still, the ban has increased the price of some domestic waste and is likely to create huge market opportunities for recycling businesses.
The current policy for e-waste, in which the government collects funds from manufacturers to subsidise recycling, should be extended to other waste with high recycling costs and potential to pollute, experts said. The government should draft preferential policies for junk dealers to help them overcome unfavour-able conditions, they said.
According to a reform plan released in July by the State Council, China will phase out imports of solid waste that can be replaced by domestic resources by the end of 2019.
Since the end of last year, imports of 24 categories of solid waste, including plastics, textiles and unsorted paper, have been banned. The ban on another 16 types of solid waste, including scrap cars and boats, will take effect on December 31. Sixteen additional types of waste material, such as stainless steel and wood, will be banned starting at the end of next year.
Previously, many Chinese companies turned to imported waste as their raw materials because domestically collected waste had no advantage in quality, quantity or price, according to Wen Zongguo, an expert on circular economy at Tsinghua University. Circular economy is a method of environmental sustainability.
Wen said the ban on imports would help to promote the development of domestic rubbish recycling as solid waste importers turn to domestic sources. The import ban has resulted in soaring prices for some domestic trash.
Wang Chao, a plastic waste dealer in Beijing since 2004, said the price for plastic waste has gone up by 1,000 yuan (Bt5,000) to about 2,800 yuan per tonne after imports of plastic waste were banned last year.
The State Council’s plan also said the amount of solid waste recycled in China would increase to 350 million tonnes by 2020, up from 246 million tonnes in 2015. Subsidies paid for e-waste recycling rose by about 2.8 billion yuan in 2017 to almost 3.6 billion yuan this year.
China began to offer subsidies for e-waste recycling with funds from manufacturers in May 2012. The total subsidy the ministry had handed out to e-waste recycling in the first five years after the subsidy fund was established stood at 10.7 billion yuan, which had helped with the recycling of almost 300 million pieces of e-waste.
“It’s a very good method to extend the responsibility of the manufacturer to recycling. With manufacturers being the subsidy providers, it makes the recycling sustainable,” said Mao Da at the China Zero Waste Alliance. He said, however, that China has been slow in extending the system to the growing amounts of other waste with high recycling costs. 
China enacted a law on circular economy in 2009, offering a legal basis for mandatory recycling. Yet no list of waste that falls into mandatory recycling categories has yet to be published, Mao said. He also said market mechanisms have failed to play an effective role in the recycling of waste with high value because of inadequate local government support.
“The recycling businesses are prone to be driven out to make way for development of other businesses. Many junk dealers have to change the location of their businesses frequently and are hesitant to invest to improve their sites and buy equipment,” he said.
Wang said he has had to move five times, largely due to local government campaigns to phase out low-end industries.
Du Kui, who works at Guangli Fuyuan, a renewable sources recycling company in Beijing, said recycling businesses often have been considered as a low-end industry by local government. 
Mao said the government should draft preferential policies to support waste dealers, granting them fixed business sites so that they will invest in infrastructure to create more orderly operations.
Zhou Jinfeng, secretary-general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, said a trial in Beijing that received good financial backing placed bins classified by type of waste in some communities. But it has failed to generate good results and people just threw their waste into any bin they found.

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