Chinese Waste Import Ban: “Quality Must Come First”

Quality must come first, the Recycling Association has said after news emerged yesterday (20 July) that China plans to ban scrap plastic and unsorted paper waste imports.

News that China is to ban the import of unsorted waste paper and all scrap plastics shows that the UK needs to focus on quality, according to The Recycling Association.

China has this week filed a notification with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that it intends to ban four classes and 24 kinds of solid waste by the end of the year including all plastics scrap, unsorted waste paper, certain metal recycling residues, textiles and all unsorted waste or scrap.

Mark Lyndon Paper Enterprises managing director Colin Clarke said: “Mark Lyndon Paper Enterprises along with our competitors ACN and Cyclelink UK have jointly supported the Quality First campaign because the mills we supply were increasingly concerned about rumours and actions, such as National Sword, coming from the Chinese Government about a crackdown on imports of recycled materials.

“For the time being, we are still able to export OCC, mixed paper and other grades to China as it is only unsorted waste paper imports that have been banned.”

“For the time being, we are still able to export OCC, mixed paper and other grades to China as it is only unsorted waste paper imports that have been banned.

“The word from China is that we purchase a grade made to a global specification and not unsorted papers. Normal caveats apply when dealing with the Chinese authorities that if bad shipments are received, then mixed papers in particular could be at threat of a ban.

“We should also be clear that China is very serious about protecting its environment and the public health of its citizens. If we do not ensure our exports of paper are of the very highest quality, then we are at risk closing our most important market for recovered paper.

“The UK, Europe and other Asian destinations simply do not have the capacity to take all of our excess recovered paper, so we must make sure China remains open to us by providing it with a high quality secondary commodity.”

Wake-Up Call

The Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin added: “China’s filing of this notification to the WTO has to act as a wake-up call to all parts of the supply chain that quality has to come first.

“We launched our Quality First campaign almost a year ago to highlight how we risked losing China as our biggest market for recycled materials if we did not get our act together, and now China has taken the action that proves it.

“In the notification, China made it very clear that it will no longer tolerate high levels of contamination from ‘dirty wastes’ or ‘hazardous wastes’ that it sees as damaging to both its ‘environmental interests’ and ‘people’s health’.

“Therefore, let’s make sure that our paper is of the highest quality so that we can maintain this essential market. With the ban on imports of all plastics scrap, this is a warning that if we do not meet the highest quality standards for paper, then we could face a similar ban in future.”

A copy of the WTO notification has been attached including the commodity codes that show the ban on unsorted paper and all plastic scrap.

No Surprise

Vanden Recycling has said that the UK plastics recycling sector has been warned about a ban on imports of plastics scrap into China, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it has come to pass.

Vanden Recycling managing director David Wilson said: “There have been warnings from China that a ban on imports of all plastics scrap was on the agenda. But in the UK, we have been too slow to respond and this is going to cause chaos in meeting plastic recycling targets and will likely lead to even higher PRN/PERN prices for plastics as a key market is cut off.

“For those that have put all their eggs in the basket that is China, they are going to have to revisit their business models or face the consequences. Our business model already allows us to be flexible and adaptable to the new reality.”

“There had been rumours that China would allow the highest quality regrind to be imported, but this is not the case. Only first remelt quality material will now be allowed into the country.

“At Vanden, we are very confident in our end markets for the material we process at our new facility in Whittlesea near Peterborough because we service a diverse customer base covering the UK, Europe and Asia.

“For those that have put all their eggs in the basket that is China, they are going to have to revisit their business models or face the consequences. Our business model already allows us to be flexible and adaptable to the new reality.

“This is a warning to the UK recycling sector as a whole that we also need to ensure that we produce the highest quality product to ensure it has a market. China has cut off imports of scrap plastics because of pollution and environmental concerns, and we should not give other countries the opportunity to do the same by providing them with low grade scrap plastics.”


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