The Department for International Trade (DIT) has urged the European Commission’s Market Access Advisory Committee (MAAC) to take action over China’s restrictions on secondary materials imports and the possibility it is contravening international rules.
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China notified the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of its intention to ban a variety of materials, including unsorted mixer papers and requiring a 0.3% maximum level, which many exporters believe will be hard to meet in the short-term as they lack the necessary infrastructure.
The MAAC meeting on 20 October heard concerns over the legality of the de facto ban and the knock-on effect for recyclers.
A DIT spokesperson said: “The UK and other EU member states have discussed this matter, including the Chinese obligations that arise in relation to the WTO technical barriers to trade agreement, with the European Commission.
“The EU Commission and member states are working together on next steps.”
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, attended the MAAC meeting as a representative of the European Recycling Industries Confederation (Euric).
He said: “There appears to be a growing interest in the negative impacts that the Chinese ban can have on the recycling industry in Europe. For Euric what matters is to ensure that quality secondary materials meeting industry specifications, standards or end of waste criteria remain unaffected by the proposed ban.”
China was a key issue for the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) at its recent meeting in New Delhi.
Robin Wiener, president of the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has told the BIR International Environment Committee that the proposed 0.3% contamination ceiling for carried waste constituted “an effective ban” because “no-one thinks they can meet that threshold”.
That some US municipalities have stopped accepting certain papers and plastics in their kerbside collection programmes has been “a big force for us in raising this issue with the US government”, Wiener said. Meetings have already taken place with the White House and US Congress, she added.
Euric secretary general Emmanuel Katrakis, said his organisation’s response included gathering information from members about the specific impacts of China’s policy so that the European Commission would be armed with “hard data” when mounting its case.
Meanwhile, a specialist in shipping commodities to the Asian subcontinent does not believe alternative export destinations have enough capacity to compensate for the tighter Chinese market.
With the fear of losing their licence if they risk sending a shipment which is then rejected, exporters have sought other outlets for their materials.
Fred Penning (pictured), chief executive of Rotterdam-based CWM Survey and Inspection, said this would lead to ”good business next year” for India and Indonesia, with shipments of OCC to India on the increase.
But he added that these markets would not replace China.
“All the plastic that was going to China cannot be absorbed by India or Indonesia. It’s too much. If they won’t take it, I wonder where it’s going,” Penning said.
“It’s impossible to be absorbed at least over a short period; 60-70% of the material went to China, the material has to go somewhere.
“It could become a problem next year. When the material is not leaving, you should burn it. Countries will have to solve their own problems. I think the market will simply find its way again.”
UK questions legality of China import restrictions