Trash Talking: Pondering China's Mounting Waste Problems and New Solutions

May 30, 2007 // 9:00am11:00am

Summary Coming Soon: Please note Chen Wen's and Tad Ferris' presentations to the right.

Zhang Jialing; SEPA
Tad Ferris; Holland and Knight
Chen Wen; EPA

To generate raw materials for some industries, China has become a major importer of waste materials, including scrap metal and secondhand products. According to official Chinese figures, in 2005, inspection and quarantine authorities recorded the import of 326,600 shipments of waste materials. This included 5,039 shipments of illegal waste, mainly electronic wastes. Although officially banned, e-waste remains a big and highly polluting scrap business in China.

Domestic production of e-waste and other hazardous wastes has been growing considerably over the past two decades. Official statistics show that that China discharged 2 million tons of untreated hazardous waste in 2000, but the actual amount could be much higher. To better regulate these wastes, the national government has outlawed intra-provincial trade in hazardous wastes and mandated each province build one hazardous waste facility. China's first hazardous industrial waste landfill became operational in Shenyang in 2000, and in 2004, China started to license businesses related to hazardous waste.

According to State Environmental Protection Administration figures, China now produces more than 1,500 tons of medical waste a day. In 2002, Shanghai alone produced 20,000 tons of medical waste. Hospitals often dispose of medical waste by burying it, leading to unsanitary conditions where viruses can be transmitted and toxic materials leached; or by burning it, filling the air with toxic fumes. Although now officially banned, in Guangdong there are cases of medical waste being used as fertilizer.

Our three speakers will be addressing some of these waste issues and recent initiatives undertaken by national and local governments and international partners to improve waste management in China.

Location: 6th Floor Moynihan Board Room, Woodrow Wilson Center


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