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China to ban imports of a further 32 waste materials

2000 china containers

The Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment has announced that scrap steel, post-industrial plastics waste, PET bottles and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) imports will be banned by the end of the year.

A statement from the ministry listed 32 grades of materials that would be moved from the ’unrestricted or restricted’ import list to ’banned import solid waste’.

In the first wave, 16 materials including compressed car scrap, scrap ships, plastics rejected from factory processes, PET bottles and electrical appliances for the recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metals will be prohibited from 31 December 2018.

Sixteen further materials, including stainless steel scraps and wood wastes, will be prohibited from 31 December 2019.

The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) said it was concerned because UK recyclers sent around 400,000 tonnes of metals worth more than £200m to China in 2017. 

BMRA technical director Howard Bluck said: “Since China first announced restrictions on certain solid recyclates that exceed impurity thresholds, we have been concerned about the lack of clarity about the meaning of ‘impurity’ and, in turn, whether those thresholds can be met.

”The most recent extension of these restrictions will concern exporters of recovered metal because it now names specific materials and metals, as well as including a host of non-ferrous metals.

”If the information is correct, of most concern are the bans on metal and electrical appliance scrap, including cable and wires, and stainless steel.

“The BMRA is seeking further information and clarity while sharing our concerns with other members of the Environment Agency’s China waste restrictions liaison group and more widely with the Government.”

The US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) said the move would affect around $278m (£197m)-worth of scrap metal exports from the US to China this year and a further $117m next year.

ISRI president Robin Wiener said: “Although we anticipated that more import restrictions would be announced, we remain concerned about the effect these policies have on the global supply chain of environmentally friendly, energy-saving scrap commodities. [It] will instead promote an increased use of virgin materials in China, offsetting the government’s intent to protect the environment.”

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