Ministers Urged To Intervene Over Chinese Waste Import Ban

Four Government Ministers have received a joint letter from The Recycling Association and Confederation of Paper Industries requesting “high level diplomacy” regarding the Chinese ban on the import of recyclable materials.

With the Chinese Government recently notifying the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that it intends to ban the import of all scrap plastics and unsorted paper by the end of the year, the two trade associations have notified the Government of their concerns.

Signed by The Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin and Confederation of Paper Industries director general Andrew Large, the letter has been sent to:

  • The Right Honourable Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade
  • The Right Honourable Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • The Right Honourable Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • The Right Honourable Mark Field MP, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The Recycling Association and Confederation of Paper Industries notify the Ministers of their support for efforts by the Chinese Government to improve the environmental standards and health of its population. But they also write that the recycling industry in the UK has responded with initiatives to improve quality of material sent to China.

However, they note that this requires a supply chain response including manufacturers, retailers, local authorities, recyclers, waste management companies, and shipping lines, to ensure Chinese import standards are met.

Insufficient

In the letter, the trade bodies write that the Chinese Government notified the WTO of its intention to ban the import of certain recyclable materials on 18 July 2017, but only invited comments until the 20 July 2017.

They suggest that normally 60 days would be seen as standard rather than the two days offered by the Chinese Government, which they believe to be insufficient.

As a result, they have requested that the Government makes representation to the Chinese Government to extend the deadline for comments to the standard 60 days to give the opportunity to work with the Chinese Government on improving quality.

“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.”

They also suggest that the move goes against the grain of free and international trade and that the Chinese Government, as part of the circular economy, must also take some responsibility for the materials it places on the market in the form of manufactured goods.

The letter also requests that the UK engages in agreeing international standards for the export of high-quality recyclable material as part of the circular economy.

The Recycling Association president Adrian Jackson said: “Both The Recycling Association and Confederation of Paper Industries believe that it is important to make representation to the UK Government over the Chinese WTO notification that it intends to ban the import of scrap plastic and unsorted paper among other materials.

“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 Government to help us make the entire supply chain aware of the need to improve quality.”

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  1. I agree with the Chinese on this one. Setting or implementing quality standards for imports of recyclable waste is long overdue not only by the Chinese but by many countries on this planet. See the UNEP/ISWA Global Waste Management Outlook 2015 if you want to begin to understand the extent of the problem. I would personally be ashamed to be party to this letter presented to a Minister of any developed country. Arguing that the Chinese action goes against the circular economy is in my view perverse – In the current media vernacular – I am outraged by this argument. Draconian – nonsense – the weakness of the argument is in the last paragraph of this article.

  2. Why on earth does anyone think any of our “ministers” would hold any sway with the Chinese? Anyone thinking along these lines is surely deluded.

  3. Baffling – China does not have to account to any person, organisation or government if it decides to discontinue importing waste from other countries. They have been the garbage dump for the rest of the world for too long. We need to deal with our waste – cut out the excess packaging, stop supermarkets using laminated films, change the colour of the ready meals packs.

    There is some logic in packaging having to conform to a material recovery standard.

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