The US National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) has written to president Donald Trump urging him to raise China’s ban on imported recyclables during his trade talks with the Chinese government.
It warned of “devastating” effects on jobs in the recycling industry, and public confidence in it, unless the situation was resolved.
NWRA president Darrell Smith said: “We believe there are better ways to achieve China’s goal of improving its environment than to place unrealistic restrictions on imported recyclables. The association has requested the Chinese government to phase in its new requirements over a period of five years.
“These restrictions could eventually lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and the closure of many recycling businesses. We urge the president and his team to raise these concerns with the Chinese government.”
In its letter, the NWRA said that, for decades, the US had exported one-third of its recyclables to China in “a mutually beneficial relationship given that the US market for consumer recyclables commodities has lower demand”.
China’s effective ban on recyclates imports “could eventually lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and closure of many recycling businesses throughout North America”, it warned.
The letter told Trump: “China has historically consumed over 50% of the world’s recyclable paper and plastic feedstock. Given the amount of recyclable materials shipped to China, there currently is not enough global capacity to absorb the unsorted paper and post-consumer plastics that are now banned.”
It said China’s action could see manufacturers revert to using virgin materials because of a shortage of recycled ones, and “the fallout from this ban could have a devastating effect on recycling that may set the industry back decades”.
Some commodity prices had dropped by 40% in the past two years because of the ban, and a lack of markets had seen materials being stockpiled or landfilled.
“This could shake public confidence and create long-term consequences in material quality and segregation efforts,” the letter added.