Why all this?

Today, the traditional role of customs inspectors as guardians of the trading system is evolving into a more inclusive dimension of sustainable development relating to the welfare and security of society. Certain substances and goods that cross the border are designated as “environmentally sensitive” to human health or ecosystems, due to their inherent hazards, potential for misuse, or impacts on biodiversity or individual species. Such items include banned or restricted chemicals, hazardous and toxic wastes, rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, and living modified organisms. Many of these items are controlled under multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) or other agreements such as the Chemical Weapons Convention. Effective monitoring and control of the transboundary movement of such substances and goods is a key component of environmental protection and, in some cases, national security.

What is there now?

At the present stage of development of society and the economy, the search for ways to solve environmental problems is becoming a priority task for institutions at all levels of government. The "green" aspects of world trade are especially significant, since "environmentally sensitive" goods are the object of cross-border movement. On this basis, the role of the customs service in solving the global environmental problem is increasing. Since 1976, China has been one of the participants in the international United Nations Environment Program (UNEP - United Nations Environment Program). The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) promotes environmentally sound practices both globally and in its own activities. UNEP is one of the partners of the initiative program "Green Customs". The main goal of this program is to increase the functionality of the customs services of the world while exercising proper control over "environmentally sensitive goods", which are regulated by a package of multilateral international agreements.

What dangers can there be?

Illicit international trade in "environmentally sensitive" goods such as ozone depleting substances (ODS), toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes and endangered species is an international problem with serious consequences. This may threaten human health and the environment; contributes to the extinction of species; leads to loss of revenue for governments; and undermines the success of international environmental agreements by violating agreed rules and procedures.

What else?

It's no secret that China is the leader in international world trade. Environmental protection for the People's Republic of China has not always been a priority in the field of state policy. While the Green movement was beginning to develop in Western countries, China was not opposed to accepting into its country the waste generated as a result of the activities of such movements. In the garbage from Europe and the USA there was a lot of scrap of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as plastic, cardboard, etc. This looked like an attractive additional resource for an economic breakthrough, so China since the early 1980s began to actively import waste from developed countries, and this continued for several decades.
The scale of the "garbage industry" grew every year. Hundreds of companies were involved in the import of foreign garbage. Tens of thousands of people were involved in the stages of sorting, processing and disposal of non-utilized waste. At the same time, the country experienced a shortage of industrial space for waste disposal, but the economic benefits were so attractive that ever-increasing volumes of garbage were imported into the country illegally.


Consequences of processing foreign waste for the environment in recycling sites can hardly be called anything other than an environmental disaster. E-waste contains substances such as mercury, cadmium and lead, which, if not handled properly, can pose a risk to human health and the environment. At the same time, about 80 percent of the electronics that has become unusable is thrown into a landfill, burned or sold illegally.

  • Gradually, the world's factory turned into a global dump.
  • China made the decision in July 2017 and announced on August 16, 2017 that it will stop importing 24 kinds of solid waste from foreign countries.

Solve the problems

Since the beginning of 2018, the Chinese authorities have begun to take vigorous measures to implement the plan of planned measures to restore order in the area of ​​uncontrolled importation of foreign garbage. On February 3, 2018, under the leadership of the Anti-Smuggling Administration of the GCC of the People's Republic of China, the relevant departments of the customs of Guangdong Province and the cities of Shenzhen, Tianjin, Harbin and Qingdao began the first stage to prevent the smuggling of foreign household and industrial waste into the country. By February 27, the territorial customs initiated 69 cases based on the results of inspections of the import of more than 50 thousand tons of garbage. Already after this stage, the main methods that smugglers resort to when illegally importing foreign waste into the country became clear.
The fight against the smuggling of foreign waste has become the most extensive, consistent and intensive specialized campaign for the Chinese customs authorities in recent years. It is accompanied by active propaganda support from the PRC mass media, which constantly pay attention to this topic as part of their coverage of environmental events. At the end of 2018, the volume of solid waste imports to China decreased by 46.5%. In addition, the country's customs authorities initiated 481 cases of smuggling, discovered and detained 150,000 tons of solid waste, which were subsequently sent outside the country.

Environmental crime is a significant and increasingly profitable business


"Green Customs" is one of the main international agreements related to the solution of environmental problems in the international sphere. China is far enough away from the final victory over garbage, because the bulk of the waste that accumulates in the country is produced within it.

1. Coordinate the work of relevant services and organizations related to this problem.
2. To create an effective accounting system, based on improved analytical work in the customs authorities.
3. Unify the regulatory framework in the field of hazardous waste movement.
4. Improve existing and develop modern technical means and equipment that will contribute to the least extent to the emergence of new hazardous waste.

The main goal of this program is to increase the functionality of the customs services of the world while exercising proper control over "environmentally sensitive goods", which are regulated by a package of multilateral international agreements.


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About the author

Nurshan Gakhramanova

Researcher, author of scientific works on economics, graduate of the Russian Customs Academy.

Nurshan Gahramanova has been engaged in scientific research in the field of economics since 2019, her articles and observations have been published in academic journals, as well as on the eLibrary portal. Despite such a small experience in scientific research, she managed to reach extraordinary heights in the field of economic research.