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Interpretations of National Inventory of Hazardous Wastes (2016)

MEP, together with NDRC and Ministry of Public Security, promulgated the National Inventory of Hazardous Wastes (2016) (hereinafter referred to as the Inventory) recently, which shall be enforced as of August 1, 2016. A journalist with CENEWS interviewed an official with MEP to offer detailed interpretations on the Inventory, in an effort to get an all-round and thorough understanding of the main changes made to the previous inventory, and the priorities, difficulties, and countermeasures in the implementation of the current version.

Q: What are the main changes made to the previous version?

A: a. Amendments to the Preface. The main changes made to the Preface based on the 2008 version include, first, the Preface of the latest version describes how to manage medical wastes; second, it has amended the explanations for the determination of the properties of the mixture of hazardous wastes with other solid wastes, as well as of the wastes from treated hazardous wastes; third, it adds the explanations for the exempted hazardous wastes, and how to classify hazardous wastes once they are identified as hazardous.

b. Changes in the varieties of hazardous wastes. The 2008 version classifies hazardous wastes into 400 varieties under 49 categories, whereas this version reclassifies them into 479 varieties under 46 categories (including 362 varieties from the previous version and 117 new additions). Specifically, the HW06 organic solvent wastes, HW41 waste halogenated organic solvents, HW42 waste organic solvents in the previous version are combined as HW06 waste organic solvents and wastes containing organic solvents; HW43 wastes containing polychlorinated benzofuran and HW44 wastes containing polychlorinated benzodioxin are removed; and HW50 waste catalysts are added to the latest version.

c. Addition of an exemption list. The exemption of hazardous wastes from management may reduce the overall environmental risks in the course of management and raise the management efficiency. Based on the studies on the ongoing environmental standards and the environmental risks of certain hazardous wastes, this version adds an exemption list, containing 16 varieties/categories of hazardous wastes which will be exempted from management as hazardous waste at specified stages, under relevant conditions, and in accordance with related descriptions.

d. Removing the “*” label from the 2008 version. In the previous version, some hazardous wastes are marked with “*” because they come from plural sources, there are possible exceptions to their hazardous properties, and there are specific national standards for identification of them. If the generators of the hazardous wastes so marked have satisfactory evidence proving that such wastes do not have any hazardous property, the said wastes may not be treated as hazardous wastes. There are 33 varieties of such hazardous wastes. However, this has led to great discrepancy among different regions in the requirements for management of certain solid wastes. Also, it does not comply with relevant provisions of the Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes (hereinafter referred to as the Law) that “Hazardous wastes refer to the solid wastes that are listed in the National Inventory of Solid Wastes or the solid wastes that are determined in accordance with the national standards and methods on identification of hazardous wastes as possessing any hazardous property”.

e. Substituting the list of waste hazardous chemicals with the Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals. The Appendix A to the 2008 version lists 498 varieties of waste hazardous chemicals under priority management, but they cover only toxic chemicals, excluding chemicals with other hazardous properties. In the new version, all of the hazardous chemicals with any hazardous property are listed, in accordance with the descriptions on the hazardous properties in the identification standards for hazardous wastes. As the Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals released by 10 State departments including State Administration of Work Safety involves all of the hazardous properties, it becomes part of the new version.

Q: What main principles do we follow in updating the Inventory?

A: a. Highlighting the priorities. The latest updating of the Inventory has targeted at wastes that are found to be complained a lot and cause plural problems during the environment management and has given priority to waste catalysts, fine distillation residues, and bio-pharmaceutical wastes. The updating has highlighted the idea of risk control and adopted a risk-assessment based approach. In the meantime, considering the conflict between limited regulatory capacity and complex properties of the wastes, an exemption list has been worked out to exempt certain hazardous wastes at certain stages with little environmental risks and to improve the graded and category-specific management of hazardous wastes.

b. Updating-based. There are diversified varieties of hazardous wastes in China which have complicated properties and are updated frequently. It is not realistic to expect a one-for-all solution to all problems through one updating, so we need to, while keeping intact the basic structure of the inventory, adhere to an updating-based principle. This version is the limited updating based on existing research findings. It takes into consideration the environmental public benefit programs, hazardous waste identification cases and relevant work, and updates certain wastes whose generation characteristics and dangerous properties have been made clear. With groundwork being constantly consolidated, and experience in identification accumulated, the inventory will be updated, renewed, and improved based on concrete circumstances.

c. Practicability. The inventory is updated to serve the environmental management. The identification of hazardous wastes entails abundant expertise and has a short history. The staff in the line of hazardous waste management especially frontline management staff do not possess sufficient expertise in handling hazardous wastes. Therefore, the updating needs to be science-based, reasonable, and easily operational. This version lists more specific categories of the fine distillation residues and waste catalysts, which makes it easier to apply.

d. Continuity. The 2008 version has been effective for eight years, and to avoid any bad effect from any significant change on relevant work, the hazardous wastes are still classified by the source of generation in this version. They are classified in almost the same way as the 2008 version, except certain categories are combined into one category. Such is the case for the organic solvent wastes, waste halogenated organic solvents, and waste organic solvents.

Q: What new ideas are reflected by the updating of the Inventory with regard to the central government management of hazardous wastes?

A: The updating is problem-oriented and aims at the delicacy management of hazardous wastes. The hazardous wastes vary greatly in category, in properties, and in pollution characteristics, so it is impossible to effectively control their pollution with some singular management approach. The management of hazardous wastes should be based on the principle of environmental risk control, by adopting whole-process control and category-specific management approach to prevent and control their hazards on the environment and public health. An exemption list is added to this version, which, as an important part of subsequent updating, will gradually advance the delicacy management of hazardous wastes.

Q: Are the wastes in the exemption list not hazardous? How do we determine whether a certain waste can be exempted?

A: The exemption list exempts a hazardous waste only at specified stages and does not preclude its nature as a hazardous waste.

The protocol for determining whether a certain waste may be exempted is as below: (1) determine if the waste concerned is in the exemption list (checking the category/code and name); (2) determine if the waste is to be exempted at a stage (stages) specified by the said list; (3) determine if the waste meets the exemption conditions described by the list.

Q: Can you specify the exemptions described by the exemption list in the appendix?

A: The hazardous wastes in this list shall be exempted from management as hazardous wastes at specified stages, under relevant conditions, and in accordance with related descriptions. Under this premise, the exemptions are specified as below:

“Not treated as hazardous waste in the whole process”: The waste concerned shall be exempted in the whole process (at all stages of management), and there is no need for observing any regulations on environmental management of hazardous wastes;

“Not treated as hazardous waste at the collection stage”: The collector may not be a holder of business license for collection of hazardous waste or of general business license of hazardous waste;

“Not treated as hazardous waste at the utilization stage”: The utilizer may not be a holder of general business license of hazardous waste;

“Not treated as hazardous waste at the landfill stage”: The landfill site may not be a holder of general business license of hazardous waste;

“Not treated as hazardous waste at the co-processing stage in cement kiln”: The cement producer may not be a holder of general business license of hazardous waste;

“Not transported as hazardous waste”: The transportation vehicle may not be those for transport of hazardous goods;

“Not treated as hazardous waste at transfer stage”: The transportation vehicles used in the transfer may not be qualified to carry hazardous goods; a hazardous waste transfer manifest may not be activated in the transfer, but a record-filing shall be needed.

Q: How do the hazardous wastes in the exemption list transit from the previous stage to the exempted stage and then to the subsequent stage? How to assure they are still treated as hazardous wastes at subsequent stages?

A: The exemption list shall exempt the hazardous wastes only regarding certain requirements and at specified stages and they shall still be treated as hazardous wastes at the previous and subsequent stages; and even at the exemption stage, the exemptions shall apply only to the specified descriptions under specified conditions, other hazardous wastes or the former wastes that do not meet the exemption conditions shall still observe the regulations on management of hazardous wastes. For example, the flying ash from incineration of municipal solid wastes, if it complies with Article 6.3 of the Standard for Pollution Control on the Landfill Site of Municipal Solid Waste (GB16889-2008) and is landfilled in a municipal solid waste landfill side, may not be treated as hazardous waste during landfill. If it does not comply with the above said article or is not processed in a landfill site, it shall still be treated as hazardous waste during disposal.

Q: National standard for identification of hazardous wastes shall be applied to determine the properties of the mixture of hazardous wastes with other solid wastes, and those of the wastes from treated hazardous wastes. How do you interpret this?

A: The properties of the mixture of hazardous wastes and other solid wastes shall be determined in accordance with “the rules for determination of the mixture of hazardous wastes” in Article 5 of the Identification Standards for Hazardous Wastes-General Specifications (GB5085.7-2007). The mixture of hazardous waste(s) with one or more hazardous properties including toxicity (leaching toxicity, acute toxicity, and other kinds of toxicity) and infectivity is hazardous waste. The mixture of hazardous waste(s) which has only corrosiveness, inflammability, or reactiveness property, with other solid wastes, if it is identified in accordance with GB 5085.1, GB 5085.4, and GB 5085.5 as no longer has any hazardous property, is not hazardous waste. The mixture of hazardous wastes with radioactive wastes shall be treated as radioactive wastes.

The properties of the treated hazardous wastes shall be determined in accordance with “the rules for determination of the treated hazardous wastes” in Article 6 of the Identification Standards for Hazardous Wastes-General Specifications (GB5085.7-2007). The wastes from the treatment of hazardous waste(s) with one or more hazardous properties including toxicity (leaching toxicity, acute toxicity, and other kinds of toxicity) and infectivity are still hazardous waste, unless otherwise provided by national regulations and standards (e.g., chromium residues). The hazardous waste which has only corrosiveness, inflammability, or reactiveness property, if it is identified in accordance with GB 5085.4 and GB 5085.5 as no longer has any hazardous property, is not hazardous waste.

Q: There are descriptions like “XXXX excluded” in many articles of the Inventory. Does that mean XXXX are not hazardous wastes?

A: The descriptions like “XXXX excluded” are to specifically exclude such wastes from this Inventory, in accordance with the current needs for environmental management. However, the solid waste law defines hazardous waste as a solid waste which is listed in the National Inventory of Hazardous Wastes or identified in accordance with national standards and methods for identification of hazardous wastes as having any hazardous property. Therefore, such wastes, although not listed in the Inventory, shall still be determined whether they are hazardous wastes or not in accordance with national standards and methods for identification of hazardous wastes. They are not hazardous wastes if identified as not having any hazardous property.

Q: Why are the two categories of hazardous wastes-HW43 and HW44 wastes are removed from the Inventory?

A: In the 2008 version, an HW 43 waste is described as a waste that contains any homolog of polychlorinated benzofuran, and an HW 44 waste as a waste that contains any homolog of polychlorinated benzodioxin. They are wastes that are generated by non-specified industries and contain persistent organic pollutants, and are marked with “*”. In accordance with the provisions of the 2008 version about the wastes marked with “*”, the waste that contains either of the two categories of persistent organic pollutants shall be identified for its hazardous property as per Identification Standards for Hazardous Wastes-Identification for Toxic Substance Content (GB5085.6). Therefore, in practice, the HW43 and HW44 wastes cannot be determined directly as per the Inventory.

The Identification Standards for Hazardous Wastes-Identification for Toxic Substance Content (GB5085.6) specifies 11 persistent organic pollutants, 39 deadly toxic substances, 143 toxic substances, 63 carcinogenic substances, 7 mutagenic substances, and 11 genotoxic substances. Considering the fact that it is not convenient for the Inventory to assign a separate code for every category of hazardous wastes whose toxic substance contents are identified as per the above standard, this version removes HW43 and HW44 wastes from the Inventory entirely and does not list them separately. They may be classified and treated in accordance with Article 8 of the Inventory after being identified.

Q: How do we classify hazardous wastes once they are identified as hazardous?

A: The Article 8 of the Inventory provides that any solid waste, if it is not clear about whether it has any hazardous property, shall be identified in accordance with national standards and methods for identification of hazardous wastes. It shall be treated as hazardous waste if identified as having any hazardous property, classified by its main toxic content and hazardous property and coded with 900-000-×× (×× being the code for a certain category of hazardous waste). For example, a hazardous waste, if it is identified with arsenic as its main toxic content, shall be coded 900-000-24 as category code.

Q: What is the basis for determining the “industrial source” for the purposes of the Inventory?

A: The industrial source for the purposes of the Inventory shall be determined in accordance with the Industrial Classification for National Economic Activities (GB/T 4754-2011). The principles provided by Article 3.1 of this standard shall be followed in determination of the industrial source of the waste, which means to identify by which industry the waste is generated as per the waste generator’s main economic activities. If the waste generator is in the line of one line of economic activity, the industry to which the generator belongs shall be determined by the said economic activity. If the waste generator is in the line of two or more lines of economic activities, the industry by which the waste is generated shall be determined by the activity that is related to the generation of the said waste.

Q: Are e-wastes and waste wires and cables hazardous wastes?

A: The 2008 version describes the category “900-044-49” wastes as “lead-acid batteries, Ni-Cd batteries, mercury oxide batteries, mercury switches, cathode ray tubes, PCBs capacitors, and other parts, from after the waste electronic and electric appliances and waste electrical and electronic equipment generated in the process of industrial production, municipal, and other activities are dismantled, fragmented, smashed into pieces, and then sorted and collected”. However, since the Chinese descriptions are ambiguous and “waste electronic and electric appliances and waste electrical and electronic equipment” are misinterpreted as hazardous wastes, this version modifies the descriptions as “waste lead-acid batteries, Ni-Cd batteries, mercury oxide batteries, mercury switches, fluorescent powder, and cathode ray tubes”.

Hazardous wastes may be generated from the dismantling of e-wastes, which, per se, are not hazardous wastes. The structural elements of wires and cables may generally be classified into four main structural components, which is, the wire, the insulating layer, the shielding layer, and the protecting layer, as well as the filling elements and bearing elements. Wires and cables neither undergo fundamental changes in structural elements nor gain any dangerous property to turn to wastes; therefore, their wastes are not hazardous wastes.

Q: How do we keep the Inventory and its Appendix-the exemption list updated?

A: With growing basic studies on the pollution characteristics of solid wastes and the identification of such wastes in China, MEP is considering adopting an updating-based approach and updating the Inventory and the list at proper timings.

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)

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