• A waste recycling depot in Laizhou, China

A waste recycling depot in Laizhou, China (Photo : Getty Images)

China is taking action against the illegal smuggling of foreign waste and shipments that are too contaminated.

The country recently sent back 160 containers of contaminated paper recycling to Ireland. This was after the country also rejected contaminated recycling from Ireland as it stands by a policy that it would no longer accept poorly-sorted waste shipments.

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China announced that it would have a crackdown known as "National Sword 2017," which is directed on cutting down the illegal smuggling of 'foreign waste' and other products such as tax-related goods, drugs and guns.

China's General Administration of Customs also said that it would target industrial waste, electronic scrap and plastics, as well as well-organised but illegal operations.

According to Steve Wong, EVP of China Scrap Plastics Association, although the crackdown may start anytime soon, there are one or two coastal ports that may still be open for importing.

In 2013, the Chinese government already intervened in a program coined as Operation Green Fence, which was directed on reducing the amount of contaminated recyclables and waste being shipped to China.

However, unlike the previous campaign, the new one is directed against deliberate smuggling attempts.

In December, police in Jiangsu province arrested three men for the illegal recycling of more than 3,000 tons of hazardous medical waste into plastics used for toys and tableware. The waste was worth around £4.5 million.

In January, it was announced by the National Development and Reform Commission that around £29 billion will be invested to address waste collection, treatment and 'non-harmful' disposal of household waste.

Meanwhile, the Irish Labour Party urged the Irish government to take action, after the 160 paper recycling containers were returned to Ireland.

It is estimated that the returned containers will cost Ireland around €500,000 (£422,000).

There are as much as 285 listed shipments of waste that leave Ireland each week.