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Paper logjam eases as China releases containers

The backlog of exported recovered paper at Chinese ports appears to have eased with most containers being allowed on to their final destinations, according to UK and Dutch industry sources.

MRW revealed last month how a clampdown on contaminated mixed paper by Chinese customs officials had left hundreds of containers quarantined in ports.

But a senior manager at a UK exporter told MRW that all the containers his firm knew were in quarantine “have now been released to their end market”.

He added: “There are a lot of rumours in the market about how many are being sent back. I heard there are ten going back to the Liverpool area. But it’s sketchy.”

Cees van Berkel of Netherlands-based paper recycler CVB Ecologistics agreed that the build-up of containers had eased with most containers being released to the mills. He said: “We have had 40 containers stuck there as well, but eventually they were sent on to the mill.”

But Van Berkel said there was a lack of information available about returned containers: “I can’t get information on how many exactly came back, but I get the impression it wasn’t that many. I think it would be in the interests of the sector that it was made public.”

A senior industry source called on the UK Environment Agency to pass on information about how many contaminated loads had been returned to the UK.

He said: “We were worried about our single shipment [which was quarantined], but I’ve seen the photos and we are confident the material was above spec.

“There were a few little problems and it’s the merchant’s fault: it’s scruffy baling, and stuff they should really home in on because they’re not helping themselves.”

Paul Briggs, managing director of Mark Lyndon Paper UK, told MRW last month the clampdown was being directed by Chinese Government officials concerned about the country’s international reputation for environmental standards.

He said: “China gets criticised for its environmental standards. Now, all across China they’re making big infrastructure changes to improve their environmental record. And accepting garbage from other counties has to be a focus.”

Briggs blamed most of the problem of contaminated exports on mixed paper from UK MRFs.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We have had no requests for repatriation of containers of contaminated paper from China in the past 12 months nor have we been approached by any UK companies about their containers being detained at Chinese ports or ordered to be returned.

“We’d always urge businesses wanting advice, or wishing to share information about waste exports, to get in touch with our waste shipments team on 01925542265 or recyclingoverseas@environment-agency.gov.uk

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