China’s New Pollutant Control Action Plan: A Focused Plan that Could Impact the Chemical Industry Outside of China


It is no secret that China has long struggled with implementing measures for pollution control and regulating hazardous chemicals. We have watched this issue closely and published about it in years past here. However, on May 24, 2022, the China State Council issued its most focused plan yet, known as the “New Pollutant Control Action Plan” or “新污染物治理行动方案,” and it will likely have far-reaching impacts on companies manufacturing, using or discharging certain chemicals in China. It could also impact companies outside of China importing chemicals into China.

This plan was born out of the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Term Goals for 2035, along with the 14th Five-Year Ecological and Environmental Monitoring Plan issued by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE). The New Pollutant Plan sets a goal to complete environmental risk screening of chemical substances of high concern and high production (use) by 2025. Other goals include releasing a list of key “new pollutants” for regulation and control; enacting emission restrictions on those pollutants; and improving the enforcement mechanisms for compliance with those restrictions.

In fact, the Plan states that before the end of 2022, the MEE will be responsible for publicizing the plan on risk assessments on priority chemical substances and will release an initial list of key new pollutants. Before the end of 2023, the MEE will complete the first round of risk assessments on priority chemical substances and first round of surveys on basic information of chemical substances.

According to Ren Yong, the Director of the Solid Waste & Chemicals Department within MEE, “new pollutants refer to those toxic and harmful chemicals with characteristics such as biological toxicity, environmental persistence, and bioaccumulation.” The MEE official clarified during a press conference in March 2022 that new pollutants will be distinguished from “familiar pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, PM2.5 and other conventional pollutants… [T]here are many types of new pollutants, and the more important feature is ‘new’ because the number of new pollutants is likely to continue to increase.”

Four categories of new pollutants will be the focus of the Plan and MEE’s initial risk assessments, which is in line with international practice:

  • persistent organic pollutants;
  • endocrine disruptors;
  • antibiotics; and
  • microplastics.

According to the Plan, the MEE will be tasked with various pilot projects for treating priority pollutants in environmental media, starting with testing the Yangtze River, Yellow River, and other basins around key drinking water sources. However, the Plan also directs the MEE to gather information in key industries from companies that produce, process, use, or discharge priority chemicals. The Plan states that the MEE should carry out “basic information surveys” and “detailed investigations” on production, processing, use, discharge, etc. of priority chemicals. This may lead to a series of information requests from the MEE to producers, processors and importers of various high-risk chemicals.

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The National Law Review, 23-06-22