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China could enforce total ban on waste imports by next year

China has said it plans to ban all waste imports, including materials that are currently allowed because they cannot be sourced domestically, by 2020, according to a Reuters news report.

The move has been widely anticipated after China announced in December a list of 32 solid waste materials that it would ban from the end of this year.

However, the Reuters report quotes a minister referring to achieve “zero waste” imports by 2020.

Reuters quotes Qiu Qiwen, director of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s solid waste division, as saying on the sidelines of a briefing: “China will further tighten restrictions of waste imports and eventually aims to realise zero waste imports by 2020.”

He said products not on the banned list would also be restricted by next year, but added that high-quality material would still be accepted.

He added: “If the solid waste…meets the requirements of China’s import standards and does not contain any hazards, then it can be treated as common commodities, not waste.”

This could be good news for UK paper recyclers as they have striven to meet the stringent maximum contamination level of 0.5% announced by China in 2018.

Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin said: “We are still hoping that paper, particularly cardboard, might be reclassified because we would argue that, as we are sending it at 0.5% non-paper component, we would say it isn’t waste.

“All the reports are that we are doing very well and that we are ranked as a tier-one supplier.”

Ellin said Chinese online retailer Alibaba had been lobbying the Government to ensure cardboard supplies.

He added: “In fairness, our forecast is that China cannot be self-sufficient in terms of fibre because their own collection system is not robust enough and, as long as they continue to be exporters, they are going to need the material back.”

Last year China imported 22.6 million tonnes of solid waste, according to the minister, down 47% from the previous year.

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