Three smuggling gangs were caught for illegally bringing more than 72,000 metric tons of used laptops and hazardous parts into China for recycling.
The scale of the operation raised concerns about the dangers of "e-trash" entering the country. The waste, which can be toxic, is banned under Chinese law and by international agreement.
E-trash includes such things as obsolete computers, batteries, mobile phones and circuit boards, said Chen Liwen, a staff member of the green group Nature University in Beijing.
In cooperation with police, customs authorities in Guangdong and Liaoning provinces and Tianjin arrested 54 smugglers in a raid on Jan 5, according to the General Administration of Customs.
More than 500 police took part in the raid, seizing 185 shipping containers and 200 tons of illegal products already stored at the site.
Investigations indicated that the gangs had smuggled more than 72,000 tons of e-trash since 2013, the largest quantity ever discovered. It was hidden in more than 2,800 containers. The junk came from Japan, as well as Europe and the Americas.
E-waste smuggling arises mainly from two factors: People in developed countries want to avoid the financial burden of waste recycling, and Chinese recyclers can earn substantial profits in salvage. E-waste usually contains small amounts of gold, copper, aluminum, silver and other precious metals, as well as plastics, according to Zhang Boju, director-general of Friends of Nature, an NGO.
The Basel Convention, an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between nations, made smuggling of e-waste a crime in signatory states, including China, in 2006.
Chen and Zhang called on the government to improve its management of waste recycling.
The government should support waste-recycling industries by upgrading technologies and paying higher subsidies, Zhang said.
1. How many smuggling gangs were caught?
2. Where does Chen Liwen work?
3. What is e-trash?
2. Nature University in Beijing.
3. Obsolete computers, batteries, mobile phones and circuit boards.