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How the New Chinese Recycling Rules Can be Met

Guide booklet by Tomra Sorting Recycling

Tomra Sorting Recycling has published an e-book containing advice on how to meet the tough new rules for sending recyclable materials to China. The e-book aims to address widespread concerns about China’s National Sword standard, introduced to the World Trade Organization in July 2017 and fully implemented on 1st March 2018, which demands higher purity levels in recyclable materials entering the country. This standard is expected to be expanded to include a total of 16 materials by the end of this year, and to add a further 16 materials by the end of 2019.

National Sword has sent shock waves through the recycling industry by requiring much recyclable material arriving in China to have purity levels greater than 99.5 %. This is a significant increase from the 90-95 % purity levels previously accepted and will have far-reaching consequences: China is the world’s largest importer of recycled material. Tomra’s e-book will explain why, for businesses striving to meet the new standard, adding more manual pickers is not a sustainable option, and why sensor-based mechanical solutions are financially smarter.

Exporting Recyclable Materials will Now be More Expensive

The e-book opens with a reality-check, warning that it will not be practical for scrap and recycling facilities to look for single-country replacements for exporting waste. Recycling facilities are likely to find they must split their waste exports between multiple countries, which will increase sales costs. Increases can also be expected in transportation costs because ships taking waste to China are usually able to make a cost-effective return trip loaded with consumer goods, whereas ships going to other countries often require additional payment for returning empty.

The answer to this new challenge is to improve the quality of recyclables by removing more impurities.

One short-term way of raising purity levels with existing recycling equipment is to slow down the belt and add manual pickers to the final sorting stage. This approach might seem attractive because it requires little initial investment, but over time, it significantly increases operating costs. Adding two or three pickers can easily inflate annual processing costs by €82,000 ($100,000) or more, and a slower processing speed will reduce productivity and income.

Equipment Upgrades Make Most Sense

A better solution is to upgrade the recycling circuit either by adding modern technologies to the existing recycling configuration or by constructing a new facility. This will reduce the number of pickers required, enabling more efficient workforce utilization to reduce overhead and long-term operating costs. The cost of investment in new equipment is quickly recovered through increased productivity.

additional links

The publication - titled ‘National Sword - No Need for Fear!’ - is available online here downloadable free-of-charge.


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