SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- China's imports of solid waste fell 56.3 percent in the first half of 2018, the result of tough new restrictions and a crackdown on smuggling, state news agency Xinhua said, citing data from the customs authority.
Total waste and scrap imports reached 9.98 million tonnes over the six month period, Xinhua said.
China started importing large volumes of recyclable waste 30 years ago, allowing ships delivering goods to Europe and the United States to fill up with trash before returning home. Total imported waste stood at 47 million tonnes in 2015.
But the government has sought to relinquish its role as the world's biggest recipient of waste as it bids to curb pollution and move up the global supply chain.
The government banned imports of 24 types of foreign waste, including plastics, at the beginning of this year, and it has also imposed tough quality restrictions on other recyclable materials, including scrap metal.
The environment ministry described the crackdown as a "symbolic measure" for the creation of a green and clean China and said it would extend the ban to 16 other types of scrap metal and chemical waste products by the end of the year.
The General Administration of Customs has also made the crackdown on illegal waste one of its priorities, and it has already arrested hundreds in a crackdown on scrap smuggling.
Many domestic recycling firms have moved their plants to Southeast Asia in order to circumvent the restrictions, and the bans have also forced Europe and the United States to rethink their recycling strategies.