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EU recyclers blame China crackdown on poor waste management


Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) has said that China’s proposed restrictions on plastic waste imports is a consequence of years of badly collected and sorted waste in the EU.

The association, which has 120 members that collectively process more than three million tonnes of plastics waste a year, said the National Sword initiative was “creating turmoil”.

The organisation called for more investment in MRFs and for harmonised recycling collections. President Ton Emans said there had been an excess of low-quality plastics sent for reprocessing “for many years”.

“These low qualities used to be exported as a cheap end-of-life solution for badly collected and sorted waste,” he added. 

“This unfair practice, in terms of economic, social and environmental implications, is at the edge of the legal requirements imposed by the Waste Directives. As a matter of fact, exporters should have demonstrated that the exported waste is treated according to EU standards.

“Today, this surplus is unable to be totally absorbed in the EU because it does not meet the quality requirements of European recyclers. This abrupt change in market conditions demonstrates the urgency needed to implement a real and sustainable waste market in Europe.”

Emans called for changes in the way material is collected, sorted and recycled in order to drive up quality.

He added: “Industry, policy-makers and society must now urgently bring a common solution to the table to allow immediate implementation of enhanced design for recycling, harmonised collections and investment in highly efficient sorting centres in order to increase the EU’s recycling capacity.”

Under National Sword, a maximum contamination rate of 0.3% on all grades of secondary material coming into China will be imposed by the end of the year.

The initiative is causing increasing alarm among UK reprocessors. Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the Resource Association, recently urged Government ministers to “get on the plane to Beijing” to challenge China’s proposed de facto ban on some secondary material grades.

The Recycling Association has been advocating its ’Quality First’ campaign in response to National Sword.

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