Steve Wong, president of the Beijing-based China Scrap Plastics Association, has warned that China could block imports of all recycled plastic within five to 10 years.
Speaking at a Bureau of International Recycling plastics committee meeting in Hong Kong, Wong said the worst-case scenario was that China’s National Sword policy on contaminated and low-quality material would lead to an overall ban.
He told the committee there were suggestions that Chinese imports of film scrap could be halted as early as September this year.
Wong also warned that no other country in the region would be able to accept the seven million tonnes of plastic imported by China each year if it had to be diverted elsewhere.
Currently, most ports in China are conducting checks on all recycled plastic import containers.
Wong argued that the most effective solution would be for increased domestic processing of plastic waste.
Committee chair Surendra Patawari Borad said there was “panic” in the US over the possible ban and increased difficulties in getting customs clearance due to National Sword.
He said some lower grade plastic scrap had decreased in price by “more than 50% and in some cases to near-zero levels”. He also described a drop in prices of higher grades of 15-20% in the past two months as a “bloodbath”.
An initiative in 2013 to block low-quality recycled material imports to China, Green Fence, led to stockpiling of plastic waste at recycling facilities around the world.