China To Stop Accepting Waste Plastic & Unsorted Paper

China has said it will stop accepting shipments of waste plastic and unsorted paper, as part of a campaign against “foreign garbage”, which it says is polluting China’s environment through contamination.

According to reports by Reuters, China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday (18 July), saying the import ban will enter into force by the end of 2017.

The ban will also cover slag from steelmaking, and many kinds of waste wool, ash, cotton and yarn, it reported.

“We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China’s environment seriously,” China’s WTO filing said.

“To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted.”

“To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted.”

Last year China imported 7.3m tonnes of waste plastics, valued at $3.7bn, accounting for 56 percent of world imports.

Apart from Hong Kong, the biggest sources of that plastic waste were Japan and the United States, which accounted for circa 10% of the volume each, according to data from the International Trade Centre, a United Nations-WTO joint venture.

The same two countries are also the main sources of scrap paper going to China each year, according to Reuters, accounting for half of the almost $1bn business between them.

China’s speedy industrial development has seen it struggling to regulate waste disposal, leading to toxic waterways and cities blanketed in smog.

China plans to conduct a nationwide survey of pollution sources, and has urged local authorities to speed things up by launching local investigations by the end of July, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Monday.

Too Early To Tell

Jakob Rindegren, recycling policy advisor for the ESA commented on the ban, saying it’s too early to tell if it will affect UK recycling markets. It also says a submission has been made to contest the ban.

He said: “ESA has been made aware that China has notified the WTO about a ban on various recyclates, including scrap plastics and unsorted paper, taking effect from 1 January 2018. We also understand submissions have been made to contest the ban. It is still unclear whether the ban would be unconditional or allow materials meeting stricter quality limits.

“ESA is following these developments closely and our members are committed to limit any disruptions that could occur. However, it is too early to comment on the implications of a ban, if imposed, not least before all details are known.”


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  1. This is long overdue and should drive up standards for recyclates if properly enforced. It is time the EU increased the standards for secondary raw materials and found ways to reuse its own recyclates in Europe by encouraging the development of mature markets in secondary raw materials. It is also time that Local Authorities and Member States published the final destinations of all recovered recyclates to bring transparency to the whole process.

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