China's planned ban on imported scrap materials vexes an industry | Updated: 2017-07-27 09:47

China's recent announcement that it has had enough of the world's garbage hasraised alarm bells in the global recycling industry that counts on the business.

An internet search will turn up mostly trade journals that have written with concern about the import ban, set to go into effect at the end of the year.

The sites have names such as Scrap Register, Scrapmonster, Plastics News Europe and Recycling Today.

China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 18 that it would stop accepting shipments of 24 types of plastic, paper and metal recyclables, including PET (polyethylene terephthalate, a form of polyester), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), polyethylene, polystyrene and other scrap polymers.

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

"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."

"The problem of foreign garbage is loathed by everyone in China," Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) official Guo Jing told reporters on July 20.

To the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), a Washington-based trade association, China's move will have economic ripples elsewhere.

"Such a ban could have a devastating impact on the global recycling industry. In any given year, approximately one-third of the scrap recycled in the United States is prepared for shipment to the export market, and China is the recycling industry's largest customer," ISRI President Robin Wiener told China Daily in a statement. "This includes more than $1.9 billion in scrap paper and $495 million in scrap plastics. A ban on imports of scrap commodities into China would be catastrophic to the recycling industry," she said.

ISRI said it had notified the US government, including the US trade representative and the US Commerce Department, about its objections and briefed it before the July 19 Comprehensive Economic Dialogue between China and the US.

"Waste and scrap", a category that consists mainly of waste paper products sent to China for re-use, was the US state of Georgia's No. 5 export to China in 2016 at $145 million, just behind agricultural products such as the state's signature peanuts.

When contacted, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce said it was still studying the impact of the move.

Outside of Hong Kong, the largestsources of the plastic waste are Japan and the United States, making up about 10 percent of the volume each, according to the International Trade Centre, a United Nations-WTO joint venture.

The US and Japan also are the main sources of scrap paper shipped to China, and account for half of the almost $1 billion business between themselves.

"The move shows that the government is stepping up the fight against pollution and environmental degradation as decades of fast growth have caused the country to be saddled with polluted air and contaminated soil and water," said Xue Rongjiu, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Society for World Trade Organization Studies.

China has been importing plastic waste as raw materials for industrial production. In 2016, China imported 7.3 million metric tons worth $3.7 billion — more than half of global imports, according to MEP data.

The MEP launched a month-long campaign on July 1 to crack down on pollution from imported-waste processing, with 420 inspectors selected from 27 provincial regions forming 60 teams to conduct investigations.

The China Scrap Plastics Association said on July 17 that 590 of the factories processing the imported waste were found to have rule violations, with 349 put under investigation for those violations.

China's medium-sized and large cities imported 46.98 million tons of solid waste in 2015, down 5.3 percent year on year, according to MEP figures.

The US, Japan, Italy, France and Germany were the top exporters of the waste, according to a report published in 2016 by the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Xinhua and Reuters contributed to this story. Contact the writer at

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349