China to Ban Import of "Foreign Garbage" by Year End
On July 18, 2017 China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it will forbid the import of four classes, 24 kinds of solid wastes, including plastics waste from living sources, vanadium slag, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials. According to the notification Chinese official agencies have found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. The statement says: "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 Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) reacted quickly to the news and said in a statement that a ban on imports of scrap commodities into China would have a devastating impact on the global recycling industry. ISRI said the ban would include most scrap plastics, including PET, PVC, polyethylene and polystyrene, as well as mixed papers and slag. In his statement ISRI President Robin Wiener fears that China is considering additional notifications in the future on other scrap materials.
Wiener says: "With more than USD 5.6 billion in scrap commodities exported from the United States to China last year alone, the trade in specification-grade commodities – metals, paper and plastics – between the United States and China is of critical importance to the health and success of the U.S. based recycling industry. If implemented, a ban on scrap imports will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and closure of many recycling businesses throughout the United States." He adds: " 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. This includes more than $1.9 billion in scrap paper (13.2 million tons) and USD 495 million in scrap plastics (or 1.42 million tons)."
This step does not come as a surprise. ISRI leaders said at a news conference in mid-June, after returning from a trip to China, that there were serious rumors of a ban on scrap imports, starting with plastics. That echoed earlier comments from Chinese plastics industry officials.
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