High Court determines waste disposal company must pay fee

Tian Shengjie
The city's high court has upheld an intermediate court's decision that a waste disposal company should pay the fee for the harmless disposal for the solid waste it imported.
Tian Shengjie

The city’s high court has upheld an intermediate court's decision that a waste disposal company should pay the more than 1-million-yuan fee for the disposal for the solid waste it imported.

It was the first public interest litigation about imported solid waste in China.

In 2015, an Anhui waste disposal company contracted a Ningbo company and two agents Xue and Huang to buy nearly 140 tons of copper-containing sludge from overseas. It spent more than 450,000 yuan (US$69,400) recovering useful materials from the waste. It declared to the local customs that the goods were copper ore.

The authority spotted the fraud and investigated the case, with the city’s procuratorate.

China launched a ban in 2014 on the import of waste containing copper, which pollutes the environment.

In 2018, three related people were sentenced to between two and four years, with fines from 300,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan. The Ningbo company also needed to pay 200,000 yuan as a penalty.

A year later, the two companies and two agents were sued again for the fee for the harmless disposal by the procuratorate.

Because of some unclear reasons, the waste could not be returned to its origin. To protect the environment, the authorities had to spend over a million yuan on waste management, the local customs said.

The intermediate court supported the procuratorate’s case but the Anhui company instituted an appeal.

The company claimed that because the solid waste was imported by the Ningbo company, it had no criminal responsibility. So it  didn’t need to pay the waste disposal fee.

But the high court rejected its appeal, saying that the company also has civil liability.

Although the waste was seized by the customs in time and there were no adverse consequences for the environment, the lawbreakers should pay the fee for sending the waste back or its harmless disposal, it added.

In recent years, the country has strictly controlled imported waste. According to the Shanghai Customs, over 240 batches of solid waste, weighing nearly 10,400 tons, have been returned to its origins last year and nearly 160 tons were safely disposed of.

This year, China has banned all imported solid waste.

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