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China plastic clampdown threatens UK recycling targets

Chinese Government restrictions on scrap plastics imports which came into effect this month threaten the UK’s recycling targets, according to a trade body.

The Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) said the restrictions by China could mark the end of large-scale import of waste plastic from the UK and “further jeopardise the chance of the UK meeting new Government recycling targets”.

PAFA CEO Barry Turner said: “The new recycling targets, already heavily criticised as unrealistic due to the lack of adequate collection and recycling infrastructure, will fail even sooner than expected if these new developments in the Far East come about”.

Last month the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce, announced a ban on imports of unwashed, post-consumer scrap to take effect from 1 October.

The new regulations reportedly also ban:

  • Transferring imported waste to a company other than what is allowed by the import license, including sending the materials to vendors for washing services
  • Selling unwashed leftover plastic materials after sorting and processing imported plastic scrap
  • Selling unwashed leftover plastic materials after sorting and processing imported scrap paper

Over the summer paper exporters were hit by a clampdown on mixed recovered paper import quality at Chinese ports which left containers quarantined and some reportedly sent back to the country of origin.

Exporters believe the clampdown is in response to international criticism of China’s environmental standards.

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