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China's first anti-water pollution standard targeting the leather and fur processing industry came into force from March 1 and could push many small manufacturers out of business.
Released by China's ministry of environmental protection, the standard, GB30486-2013, aims to cut annual industry-related wastewater emissions to 138 million tonnes from the current 160 million tonnes per year, for instance, which would require significant investment.
A ministry note said that this standard could be impossible to attain for 45% of manufacturers in an industry whose annual production is below 50,000 pieces of cow leather (45 sq ft per piece) - and they may have to quit the sector.
"These small manufacturers usually lack the necessary equipment and technology to treat waste. Big manufacturers in our province already invested heavily to control pollutants," said a director at the Hangzhou-based Zhejiang Leather Industry Association.
Indeed, the standard will also require manufacturers to reduce demand for chemical oxygen to about 30,000 tonnes from 40,400 tonnes; for ammonia nitrogen to 7,300 tonnes from 16,000 tonnes; and trivalent chromium to 6.72 tonnes, a sharp fall from the current 1,280 tonnes, according to a ministry note.
It said to achieve the goal, the industry needs to invest about CNY2bn (US$325 million) to upgrade facilities and employ new technologies, including high chrome exhaustion systems for tanning employing hydrolytic acidification-sequencing batch reactor (SBR) processes to treat wastewater.
Most Chinese tanners are located in Hebei, Henan, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Shandong, Fujian and Liaoning provinces.