SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China arrested 576 people accused of smuggling waste into the country in the first 10 months of the year, state news agency Xinhua said, part of its efforts to enforce a ban on low-grade trash imports.
China handled a total of 412 criminal cases involving 1.46 million tonnes of solid waste over the 10-month period, Xinhua reported late on Tuesday, citing data from the General Administration of Customs.
In an operation called "Sword at the Country's Gate 2018", the customs authority has made the crackdown on smuggled foreign waste one of its priorities this year.
China told the World Trade Organisation last year that it would ban 24 types of recyclable materials, including plastics, and gradually phase out shipments of other waste.
It said this week that it would ban a further 32 products such as hardware, ships, auto parts and stainless steel scrap starting from Dec. 31.
China was previously the recipient of most of the world's waste, with shipments reaching as high as 47 million tonnes in 2015, and the ban has forced Europe and the United States to seek alternative destinations in southeast Asia.
China's trash imports had supported hundreds of small-scale scrap and plastic recycling plants along the coast since the 1980s.
But the government regards low-grade recycling to be inconsistent with the country's aims to clean up its own waste, "upgrade" its economy and move up the global supply chain.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)