Ministries and Coordination Mechanism

In general, solid waste management in China is supervised by several ministries (Table 1).

Table 1. Ministries and Their Roles in Solid Waste Management in China

China : Ministries and Coordination Mechanism (Table 1)

Ministry Authority
Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Collection, transportation, treatment and/or discharge management of municipal solid waste
Ministry of Ecology and Environment Industrial and hazardous waste management
Ministry of Commerce Restoration and distribution supervision of recyclable waste materials
National Development and Report Commission Process and application management of recyclable waste materials
Ministry of Agriculture Agricultural waste management

Source: Liu (2017).

Through the Marine Environment Protection Law of China 1999, the country employs several departments that specifically control marine environment protection (Table 2).

Table 2. Departments in Charge of Marine Environment Protection

China : Ministries and Coordination Mechanism (Table 2)

Department Responsibility
Department of Marine Ecology and Environment (under the Ministry of Ecology and Environment) Supervision of national marine environment protection and marine pollution control caused by land-based pollutants and coastal construction projects
State Oceanic Administration (under the Ministry of Natural Resources) Supervision of marine environment; organisation of survey, surveillance, supervision, assessment, and scientific research of marine environment; national marine environment protection against pollution damage from construction projects and wastes dumped into the sea
Maritime Safety Administration (under the Ministry of Transport) Management of marine environment pollution caused by non-military vessels and non-fishery vessels, investigation of pollution accidents
The Bureau of Fisheries (under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs) Supervision of marine environment pollution from non-military vessels and fishing vessels, ecological environment safeguards in the fishing zones, control of fishery pollution accidents
The Chinese People’s Armed Police Force (under the Central Military Commission and the State Council) Management of marine pollution caused by military vessels, investigation of pollution accidents by military vessels

Source: Government of China (2019).


Liu, C. (2017), Country Chapter State of the 3Rs in Asia and the Pacific: The People’s Republic of China.[Nov%202017]%20China.pdf (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (2019), Marine Environment Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China. (accessed 6 November 2019).

National Laws and Regulation

China has multiple regulations regarding the marine environment:

Marine Environment Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China 1999

This law targets marine environment protection and conservation, pollution prevention, ecological and human health protection, and economic and social sustainability (Article 1). Each individual is obliged to protect the marine environment and uncover any activity that causes marine environment degradation (Article 4). Whoever disposes pollutants into the sea must pay penalty based on the national regulation (Article 11). Additionally, any occurrence that pollutes or could potentially pollute the marine environment must be effectively acted upon, and all parties that could possibly suffer from the incident be notified  (Article 17). Exploitation of natural resources in islands and the surrounding environment must employ strict ecological protection (Article 26).  In the chapter on marine environment damage caused by dumping waste, disposing wastes on China’s territory is highly restricted. Activities permitted to dump wastes into the sea must follow time limits and certain conditions and provide detailed records of the dumping activities (Article 59 and 60). Lastly, wastes generated from incineration are prohibited from being disposed into the sea (Article 61).

Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on the Control Over Dumping Wastes into the Sea Waters 1985

This regulation, created to implement the Marine Environment Protection Law, aims to manage waste dumping into the sea, prevent pollution, achieve ecological balance, and protect marine resources (Article 1). Entities that want to dispose wastes into the sea are obliged to file an application form to the competent authority, containing information about characteristics and composition of their wastes  (Article 6). Wastes coming from other countries and intended for dumping in China are highly prohibited (Article 7). The competent authority must be notified before wastes generated from ships are allowed to enter China’s jurisdiction (Article 8). Foreign ships that intend to explore, exploit, or perform offshore activities must seek approval from the competent authority (Article 9). This regulation lists three categories of wastes. Plastic is prohibited from being dumped into the sea (Article 11). Several conditions, including time limit and provision of recording details, are imposed upon entities that are already permitted to dump wastes into the sea (Article 14). Those that do not follow the regulations and degrade the marine environment must restore the situation to its pre-damaged condition and pay penalties for damage to the environment and parties (Article 17).

Regulations on the Prevention of Pollution Damage to the Marine Environment by Land-based Pollutants

The Marine Environment Protection Law aims to strengthen management and administration of land-based pollution and protect the marine environment from land-based pollution (Article 1). Entities that intend to dispose of land-based pollutants into the sea must follow regulations (Article 5) such as notifying and registering with the environmental protection department (Article 6). A fee is imposed on those who excessively dump land-based pollutants into the sea. The polluters must take charge of pollution control and elimination (Article 7). Discharging solid waste and harmful matters along seashores and beaches must first be approved (Article 11 and 13). Several conditions such as taking prompt measures and reporting to stakeholders must be met by any organisation or individual causing marine environment degradation (Article 22). Lastly, penalties are imposed on those who violate regulations (Article 24-31).

Besides implementing regulations on marine environment protection, China has adopted several laws closely related to waste management:

Cleaner Production Promotion Law 2002

The government shall enact legislation that promotes the use of waste products that can drive recycling activities (Article 9).

Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes 2004

This law replaced the 1996 Law on Prevention of Environmental Pollution Caused by Solid Waste (The President of The People’s Republic of China, 1996). Aside from impeding environmental pollution from solid waste, the new law aims to enhance public health, ecological conditions, and sustainable development of the economy and society (Article 1). All units and individuals must be responsible for their own solid waste production by strategically collecting, storing, transporting, utilising, and disposing solid waste (Article 17). The State shall promote research on the manufacture of plastic-sheet covering and packages to foster recycling and create easily degradable commodities (Article 19). Lastly, the law strictly prohibits dumping waste in China’s territory and importing solid waste that cannot be used as raw material (Article 24 and 25).

Circular Economy Promotion Law 2008

This law defines the circular economy as activities that reduce, recycle, and recover products (Article 2). Enterprises must develop strategic management systems to cut resource consumption and waste generation to be able to raise the level of waste recycling and resource recovery (Article 9). Further, enterprises are responsible for recovering, reusing, and disposing of waste based on regulations (Article 15). The State is obliged to encourage citizens to use recycled products (Article 10) and establish buildings to facilitate waste collection and recycling (Article 41).

Environmental Protection Law 2014

This law amends the 1989 law (The President of The People’s Republic of China, 1989) and aims to protect the environment; manage pollution and public hazards; and maintain public health, ecological conditions, and economic and social sustainability (Article 1). Better protection is provided for the marine environment, involving different levels of authorities (Article 34). Issues of general solid waste management are explained in this regulation, where the State is responsible for promoting environment-friendly and recycled products to minimise waste (Article 35 and 36). On a smaller scale, local governments are urged to organise the sorting, separation, and recycling of municipal solid waste (Article 37), while the people are encouraged  to abide by environmental protection laws and regulations and actively support environmental protection measures  (Article 38). For pollution control, enterprises are exhorted to prioritise waste utilisation through waste disposal technologies to reduce pollutant generation (Article 40).  Enterprises are obliged to manage environmental pollution, including from waste (Article 41).

On 19 January 2020, the Government of China took huge steps to eliminate single use of plastic waste through a document that seeks to further strengthen the control of plastic pollution (NDRC, 2020Waste360, 2020). China’s plastic demand is, by volume, the biggest in the world. As the global leader in polymer import market, especially polyethylene, China determines the global plastic business (Waste 360, 2020).

The document is a joint proposal of China’s National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (Waste360, 2020). In general, the document aims to prohibit production, sale, and use of certain types of plastic while encouraging degradable and recyclable plastic alternatives (Xinhua Net, 2020). The plastics in the banned category include the ultra-thin shopping bag (thickness less than 0.025 mm) and the polyethylene agricultural mulch (thickness less than 0.01 mm) (NDRC, 2020).

The regulation has three main objectives, divided into three phases: 2020, 2022, and 2025 (Table 1).

Table 1. Objectives and Followed Actions of China’s New Regulation to Control Plastic Pollution

China : National Laws and Regulations (Table 1)

Objectives Target

Prohibition/restriction of production, sale, and use of some plastic products in certain areas

  • Ban of production and sale of disposable foam plastic tableware, disposable plastic cotton swabs, and production of daily chemical products that contain plastic microbeads
  • Prohibition of production, sale, and use of non-degradable plastic bags and disposable plastic tableware in some key cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu
  • Prohibition of disposable plastic straws provision in catering industry across the country

Significant reduction of disposable plastic product consumption, promotion of alternative plastic products, and implementation of green logistics model

  • Expansion of implementation scope of ban of production, sale, and use of non-degradable plastic disposable plastic tableware from some key cities to all cities in the country
  • Prohibition of disposable plastic supplies in star-rated hotels across the country
  • Prohibition of use of disposable plastic packaging and woven bags as well as reduction of plastic tape use for delivery service in key cities in China

Establishment of management system for production, circulation, consumption, recycling, and disposal of plastic products; generation of a multi-component co-governance system; and enhancement of development and application of alternative products

  • All cities in China are targeted to cut consumption in restaurants of single-use plastic items by 30%. 
  • All hotels and home-stay businesses in China must ban the provision of disposable plastic supplies
  • All cities in China must ban disposable plastic packaging and woven bags as well as reduce use of plastic tape for delivery service.

Source: NDRC (2020)Waste360 (2020).

The following mechanisms will be applied to enforce plastic pollution control. First, multi-party cooperation in e-commerce takeaway platforms, sanitation section, recycling companies, and other relevant stakeholders will be promoted. Second, standardisation, centralisation, and industrialisation of plastic waste resource will be fostered to enhance the level of plastic waste utilisation. Third, actions will be performed to clean up plastic waste in rivers, lakes, harbours, and beaches as well as chemical plastic packaging in farmland (NDRC, 2020).

Besides changing the system, scientific and technical support will be strengthened regarding environmental risk of different types of plastics, pollution mechanism, monitoring, prevention and control technologies, and others.  Lastly, the regulation will be supported by all regions and relevant departments so that the objectives can be achieved in the given time (NDRC, 2020).


Government of China (1985), Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on the Control Over Dumping Wastes into the Sea Waters. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (1989), Environmental Protection Law of The People’s Republic of China. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (1990), Regulations on the Prevention of Pollution Damage to the Marine Environment by Land-based Pollutants. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (1996), Law on Prevention of Environmental Pollution Caused by Solid Waste. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (1999), Marine Environment Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (2002), Cleaner Production Promotion Law. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (2004), Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (2008), Circular Economy Promotion Law. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Government of China (2014), Environmental Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China. (accessed 6 November 2019).

National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) (2020), Opinions on Further Strengthening the Control of Plastic Pollution. (accessed 29 May 2020).

Waste 360 (2020), China Unveils Five-Year Plan to Ban Single-Use Plastics. (accessed 9 June 2020).

Xinhua Net (2020), China Reveals Plan to Cut Plastic Use by 2025 (accessed 9 June 2020).

Local Regulations

Two regions in China have regulations on plastic waste reduction and solid waste management.

The Province of Jilin enacted on 1 January 2015 the Regulation on the Prohibition of Production, Sales, and Provision of Disposable Non-Degradable Plastic Shopping Bags and Plastic Tableware (UNEP, 2018). This regulation restricts the production and sale of non-degradable plastic shopping bags and plastic tableware (Article 1). The regulation asks relevant stakeholders to be responsible in improving recycling activities and facilities (Article 8).  It also requires shopping malls, shops, and markets’ organizers to monitor the implementation of the plastic ban (Article 9). Penalties are imposed on those who break the regulation (Article 11).

The City of Shanghai, which is the biggest industrial and commercial city in China with a high population density, has an experience in implementing environmental law (Lianghu et al., 2014). Since early 2019, Shanghai has adopted the Shanghai Domestic Waste Management Regulations, with waste separation as one of its main highlights. The regulation lists four categories of waste separation: recyclable wastes, harmful wastes, wet rubbish, and dry rubbish (Article 4). Several municipal departments are involved in enhancing municipal solid waste management practice and developing comprehensive cooperation mechanism (Article 5). Individuals are asked to actively support green living, waste reduction and separation, and domestic garbage management. Shanghai has a domestic garbage disposal fee system to set the prices for domestic waste disposal (Article 7). Government institutions, enterprises, and hotels are encouraged to use environment-friendly products and eliminate the use of disposable cups (Article 21 and 22). The regulation requires waste classification, collection, transportation, and disposal (Article 28, 29, & 30).


Jilin Provincial People’s Government (2015), Regulation on the Prohibition of Production, Sales, and Provision of Disposable Non-Degradable Plastic Shopping Bags and Plastic Tableware (accessed 6 November 2019).

Lianghu, S., H. Sheng, N. Dongjie, C.  Xiaoli,  N. Yongfeng, and Z. Youcai (2014), ‘Municipal solid waste in China’, in A. Pariatamby and M. Tanaka, Municipal Solid Waste Management in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Singapore: Springer, pp.95–112.

Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress (2019), Shanghai Domestic Waste Management Regulations. (accessed 6 November 2019).

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (2018), Single-use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability. (accessed 6 November 2019).

Action Plans and Roadmaps

At the end of 2016, the State Council of China endorsed the Notice of the “13th Five-Year Plan” Ecological Environmental Protection Plan. The 13th plan has three main objectives: environmental quality enhancement, comprehensive management affirmation, and amendment of environmental issues acceleration (China Water Risk, 2016). The third chapter of the plan, which focuses on green development, includes issues related to recycling, such as China’s promotion of pilot projects on recycling industrial waste materials, including plastics, to encourage the circular economy. New recycling mechanisms such as internet + recycling and smart recycling are also encouraged to broaden producers’ responsibility. The plan expects utilisation of industrial waste by up to 73% by 2020. This movement goes hand in hand with the country’s mission to support green technology, where recycling and utilisation of wastes are greatly strengthened. For general waste treatment, discussed in Chapter V, acceleration and improvement of discharge facilities play a fundamental role in enlarging waste treatment coverage in urban and rural areas. This can be done by advancing landfill treatment, fly ash disposal procedure, and methane utilisation. Incineration is targeted to be increased up to 40% by 2020. The sixth chapter of the plan discusses reduction of environmental risks, including hazardous waste. By 2020, more efforts will be employed to deal with the production, storage, utilisation, and disposal of hazardous waste. Finally, chapter 7 highlights the 25 priorities of national environmental protection projects. Governance of rural waste management is included as a priority project, covering waste utilisation and improvement of waste treatment facilities.


China Water Risk (2016), China’s 13th Five-Year Plan for Ecological & Environmental Protection (2016–2020). (accessed 6 November 2019).

State Council (2016), 13th Five-Year Ecological Environmental Protection Plan. (accessed 6 November 2019).