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Plastic imports dominate National Sword clampdown

Around 60% of the violations concerning imported secondary materials in China involve plastic loads, it has been reported by the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).

The figure comes from the BIR’s latest report to members of the non-ferrous division, which also reflects “ongoing uncertainty” among UK non-ferrous exporters because of China’s National Sword drive against illegality.

David Chiao, president of the division, said: “Of the violations uncovered to date by this major inspection programme, more than 60% relate to plastic scrap importers/processors while 15%-plus concern non-ferrous importers/processors.

“The violations range from the very minor, such as documentation errors, to the severe, including water and air pollution.”

The National Sword inspection regime kicked off properly during July, with 420 inspectors selected from 27 provincial regions to form 60 teams nationally.

According to BIR’s regional recycling expert Ma Hongchang, the inspectors were checking whether enterprises passed environmental evaluations, violated rules regarding discharge of pollutants or illegally transferred scrap imports.

“Those breaching environmental regulations will be investigated and punished in a timely manner. Local officials will be summoned to meetings if they are slow in dealing with problems,” he said.

He also noted that China had closed more than 600 mills producing low-grade construction steel in 2017, which equates to around 110 million tonnes of annual production. Hebei, China’s biggest steel-producing province, was planning to cut more than 11 million tonnes of annual output.

UK board member Nick Rose said: “The major issue for UK merchants is the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Chinese authorities’ import ban on certain scrap materials. Coupled with environmental and governmental checks in the south of the country, this is making grades such as cable difficult to trade.”

He added that the second quarter “had not been a bad quarter for the metals industry” because of lower container prices, better availability, a relatively weak pound and merchants reporting a little more volume than last year.

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