University of Calgary

Waste Import Bans and Environmental Quality: Evidence from China's Electronic Waste Disposal Towns


Lian Guo
W. D. Walls
Xiaoli Zheng


In 2018, the Chinese government introduced a ban on a variety of imported waste, including waste plastics from living sources. Beginning in 2021, the ban expanded to include all foreign solid waste. This paper investigates the impact of the current ban on the air quality of China's electronic waste (e-waste) disposal towns. Using a daily panel of China's major e-waste disposal hubs from 2017 to 2019, we estimate the effect of the ban on air pollution within Difference-in-Difference (DID) and Regression Discontinuity (RD) frameworks: We find that local air pollution decreased by 15%--28% due to the ban. We also find the imported-waste ban is cost effective: the potential health benefits considerably outweigh the extra cost borne by downstream industries using recycled e-waste as an input. China's air quality improvement informs similar policies on waste import control being considered by other developing countries.
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