The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and the Recycling Association (RA) have called on four Government ministers, including environment secretary Michael Gove, to lobby China over an imminent ban on the import of selected recyclable materials.
The trade bodies say they support the country’s efforts to improve environmental standards and the health of its population, but want ministers to ask for more time for discussion with the authorities.
They also want a wider debate on China’s responsibility for the materials it places on the market in the form of manufactured goods, and an agreement on international quality standards for the export of recyclable materials.
The ban, which includes plastics and unsorted papers, is due to take full effect at the end of the year. It has prompted CPI director general Andrew Large and RA chief executive Simon Ellin to write to:
- Michael Gove, Defra secretary
- Liam Fox, secretary for international trade
- Greg Clark, secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy
- Mark Field, minister at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
The authors note that the recycling industry in the UK has responded with initiatives to improve the quality of material sent to China. But they argue that meeting higher Chinese standards requires effort across the supply chain of manufacturers, retailers, local authorities, recyclers, waste management companies and shipping lines.
On 18 July, the Chinese government notified the World Trade Organization of its intention to ban the import of certain recyclable materials and invited comments until 20 July. The trade bodies argue that 60 days would normally be as standard, rather than the two days offered by the Chinese.
As a result, they have requested that the UK Government makes representation to the Chinese government to extend the deadline for comments to 60 days to give the opportunity to work with the Chinese on improving quality.
RA president Adrian Jackson said: “This action by the Chinese government seems draconian and against the spirit of international trade, especially as many companies, including our members, have worked hard to improve quality.
“But for those materials that are still allowed to be exported to China, this ban should serve as a warning. Unless the whole supply chain takes responsibility for the recyclability of a product at the end of its life, then key markets such as China will disappear. As a result, we have also asked the [UK] Government to help us make the entire supply chain aware of the need to improve quality.”