China’s Ocean Waste Surges 27% in 2018: Ministry

October 29, 2019 Updated: October 29, 2019

BEIJING/SHANGHAI—China dumped a total of 200.7 million cubic meters of waste into its coastal waters in 2018, a 27 percent rise on the previous year and the highest level in at least a decade, the country’s environment ministry said on Oct. 29.

The majority of the waste was dumped in the delta regions of the Yangtze and Pearl rivers, both major industrial zones on China‘s eastern coast, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) said.

“At the moment, there are some clear problems with the work on the marine ecological environment, with some regions not showing a lot of awareness or paying sufficient attention, and lacking strong initiative and dedication,” Huo Chuanlin, deputy director of the MEE’s marine environment department, said at a briefing in Beijing.

Environmental groups have expressed concern that China, desperate to clean up its own rivers, is dumping increasing amounts of trash in its seas instead.

Of the 8.8 million tons of plastic waste that flows down the world’s “small first order streams to large rivers that discharge to the sea,” the “top ten” polluting rivers account for 88-95 percent of plastics that flow each year into the world’s oceans.

The six Chinese rivers on the “top ten” list—the Yangtze, Yellow, Hai, Pearl, the Amur that borders Russia, and the headlands of the Mekong River—account for about 3.8 million tons, or almost half of the world’s plastic flow into the oceans. The Yangtze alone accounts for 1.6 million tons of plastic discharged into the oceans.

China found an average of 24 kilograms of floating trash per 1,000 square meters of surface water last year, 88.7 percent of which was plastic, the ministry said. Plastic also dominated the waste found below the surface, including on the seabed.

Earlier this year, Beijing published an action plan designed to clean up the Bohai Bay, one of the country’s busiest and most polluted waterways.

China has earmarked 7 billion yuan ($991.70 million) for the clean-up this year alone, but Huo said it is still expected to struggle to meet a key target aimed at making at least 73 percent of Bohai waters fit for human contact by next year, up from around 70 percent at present.

China is planning to make around 30 percent of its coastal waters completely off-limits to development as part of a national “ecological red line” scheme.

But it is also trying to protect its rivers and improve the environment of its cities by moving polluting industries like steel and petrochemicals to the coast.

By Muyu Xu and David Stanway. Epoch Times contributor Chriss Street contributed to this report.

RECOMMENDED