China’s Customs authority launches ‘Blue Sky 2018’

China has formally launched ‘Blue Sky 2018’ as a 10-month long period of ‘special actions against foreign garbage smuggling’.

The announcement of the ‘special actions’ came yesterday, 6 March from China’s Customs Authority (the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China).

And, at the same time the Customs authorities announced that they had seized over 500 tons of smuggled waste paper in Qingdao and were investigating 7,000 tons of smuggled waste paper from Russia.

The formal announcement of ‘Blue Sky 2018’ – which runs from 1 March to 31 December – comes after a number of similar Customs initiatives in recent years, including the Green Fence.


From March 1, the Chinese government has already said that used cardboard exported to China can only have a maximum of 0.5% of contaminants while unsorted – mixed – papers are prohibited, as are mixed waste plastics.

The restrictions are having a notable effect within the UK, particularly on mixed papers with some material being stored while measures are in place to further sort mixed papers in an attempt to produce acceptable grades for other markets and mixed paper is also being exported to some markets.

China Customs authority on a port inspection last month (not related to waste checks). Picture: General Administration of Customs, China

‘Blue Sky 2018’ is likely to be of note to exporters of used cardboard and will add to concerns that they may have material rejected.

Sea and land

In its announcement, China’s Customs Authority said that the action focuses on cracking down on the smuggling of foreign rubbish and illegal activities attempted by importers through concealing of products at sea and on land borders.

“The special campaign focuses on combating waste from smuggling countries, mainly the wastes categorised under the Imported Solid Waste Prohibited list.”

‘Fully committed’

Zhang Guangzhi, spokesperson for the General Administration of Customs, said that the organisation is fully committed to “investigating a number of large-scale smuggling cases of wastes, eradicating a number of smuggling gangs and cutting off a number of smuggling routes and chains of rubbish, and resolutely blocking ‘foreign rubbish’.”

During the operation, the Customs and Excise Department will also work with relevant local authorities to promote “comprehensive anti-smuggling work in a concerted manner”.

Under the coordination of local government organisations, Zhang Guangzhi said that Customs would strengthen its links with relevant law enforcement departments such as environmental protection and quality inspection to stop illegal operations and “foreign garbage” shops.

“Customs is fully committed to … eradicating a number of smuggling gangs and cutting off a number of smuggling routes and chains of rubbish, and resolutely blocking ‘foreign rubbish’.”

Zhang Guangzhi
General Administration of Customs, China


In terms of actions so far, the Customs authority said that working with the Shenzen Customs Anti-smuggling bureau, a special operation had been carried out a month ago in Guangdong, Shenzen and other places simultaneously. This action targeted the verification of more than 40,000 tonnes of plastic wste.

On February 3, Tianjin Customs Anti-smuggling Bureau carried out the “mission 2018” special campaign to combat “foreign rubbish” smuggling. The action team was divided into 15 action teams and five criminal cases were filed. More than 700 tons of waste plastic were inspected and seized, and the import banned 1,600 tons of zinc ash.

Also last month, Harbin Customs – said the General Customs authority – successfully investigated individuals and companies smuggling more than 7,000 tons of Russian waste paper. This involved “smuggling gangs in a number of customs districts in Guangdong and into other customs areas such as Henan and Jiangsu”.


And, the General Customs authority reported that on February 6, the Qingdao Customs Anti-smuggling Bureau put on record a case investigation of a Qingdao-based paper company suspected of smuggling solid wastes. It said that at the company’s site more than 500 tons of smuggled waste paper was seized and more than 1,600 tons of smuggled waste paper was involved. The origin of the Qingdao paper was not given by Qingdao Customs.

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