Rampant Illegal Waste-Dumping Plagues China

Rampant Illegal Waste-Dumping Plagues China
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

Illegal cross-province garbage dumping in China has raised pollution concerns and unveiled a lucrative black market business.

On July 1, residents near Taihu, home to one of the five largest freshwater lakes in China, informed local law enforcement that about 4,000 tons of trash had been transported from Shanghai to Taihu to be illegally dumped onto Xishan Island, located in the middle of Taihu. When local officials investigated the matter, they found more than 20,000 tons of garbage had been dumped at the location.

Government officials found eight ships carrying 4,000 tons of trash moored at the port of a drug rehab center on Xishan Island. They have held the ships in custody and taken some water samples collected around the dump site. While the results have come out as normal, locals residents believe the water surrounding the area has been contaminated.

The local police administration has charged 13 suspects including ship owners and intermediaries for violating criminal laws.

The ship owner claimed the garbage would be used by a construction company as material for laying temporary paths at a construction site. Government officials said the construction company is not a local one and they are still investigating.

The local environment protection department has promised it will cooperate with other government administrations to clean up the area and prevent future incidents.

The incident has raised concerns over the quality of water in Taihu since the area provides water and seafood for several nearby communities. According to a Greenpeace report on plastic waste in ocean, once the plastic molecules in the garbage flow into the water, they are usually consumed by fish and sea animals, which in turn become food for humans.

Recent cross-province garbage dumping incidents

This is not the first time that large amount of waste have been transported from one province and illegally dumped in another in China.

In June, local media reported that a river in Hengshui, Hebei Province, had become a dump for liquid waste. From October 2015 to June this year, it is estimated that about 8,000 tons of liquid waste have been unloaded into the river.

On May 27, a truck carried a large amount of trash from Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, to Yudu, Jiangxi Province, and dumped it there, drawing much attention from the public.

In March, four trucks were found illegally dumping garbage consisting of medical waste and residential trash into a large pit in Julu, Hebei Province.

Last October, local media in Anhui reported that hundreds of tons of trash were shipped from Zhejiang to Anhui and dumped in Xuancheng, Anhui. The living environment around the dump site was significantly affected by strong odor of the waste.

Lucrative black market business in China

Research has found that illegal waste transportation and disposal has turned into a huge black market business in China. City waste is often transported by different companies before it is finally disposed, leading to many contractors profiting from the process.

A ship owner involved in the Taihu incident told local media that he can earn 2,000 yuan (US$300) per shipment of trash, twice as much as transporting other freight.

In addition, the intermediaries in the whole transportation process can earn 30 yuan per ton and people who find a dump location can acquire 5 yuan per ton. People who unload and bury the trash can also profit.

In the Julu waste disposal case, a truck earned 1,900 yuan transporting the garbage from Shandong to Hebei.

In the Anhui case, the company responsible for disposing of the waste commissioned a portion of the garbage to another contractor at the price of 160 yuan per ton.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole