Establishing a PRTR is Critical for China’s Hazardous Chemicals Management

May 8 2018 :

The Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) jointly released the report, “PRTR: Establishing a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register in China” on May 8, 2018 in Beijing, China. The two organizations also convened a forum with representatives from academia, business and environmental groups to discuss using a PRTR disclosure system to strengthen the management of hazardous chemicals.
Approximately 100,000 chemicals are used in the world today. China is the world’s largest chemical manufacturer and user, and chemical production is predicted to grow 66% from 2012 to 2020, as compared to much lower growth rates in North America and Western Europe. While chemicals can contribute to economic development and improved living standards, they also pose adverse impacts on the environment and human health – especially during manufacturing and production processes. A recent string of incidents involving hidden wastewater discharge, illegal landfills and cross-border dumping of hazardous waste once again highlights the shortcomings of China’s current management and control of hazardous chemicals.

“PRTR: Establishing a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register in China” looks into the background and process of industrialized nations’ establishment of PRTR systems, as well as the key role they play in controlling and managing hazardous chemicals. In the US, which established the first PRTR system in the form of its Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), after ten years of disclosure, emissions of 340 chemicals reported on the TRI had dropped by 45.5 percent.

The report also introduces relevant multilateral initiatives, including the PRTR Protocol to the Aarhus Convention and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals
Management (SAICM). The report shows that although China has made historical progress toward establishing a legislative basis for environmental information transparency, it continues to focus on conventional pollutants in its efforts to leverage information disclosure as a means of pollution control, and has yet to extend such efforts to persistent, bioaccumulative pollutants such as hazardous chemicals and toxic heavy metals. Only with the Measures on the Environmental Management and Registration of Hazardous Chemicals (Trial), which went into effect in 2013, did China begin to make requirements for enterprises to disclose information on the release
and transfer of hazardous chemicals. However, since the main focus of management was more on general pollutants, the Measures – which were China’s only piece of legislation with any form of a PRTR system – were never seriously implemented before they were annulled in July 2016.

The report is available in English at the following link: