Issues by Geographical Area: China

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Policy & Regulations

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Adina Renee Adler
Senior Director, Gov't Relations & Int'l Affairs
(202) 662-8514

China News

China Releases Detailed Policy on its "Prohibition of Foreign Waste Imports"

In a detailed policy announcement on July 27, the Chinese government outlined its goals for tying import restrictions to improving domestic "recovery and reuse of domestic solid waste." The policy statement is available in Chinese and in English.

It is the first acknowledgement that the government intends to "progressive[ly] stop solid waste imports" as they "can be replaced by domestic supplies before the end of 2019." The government is concerned that “plastic waste imports from living sources as well as mixed paper ...highly endanger the environment” and the government will "uphold monitoring controls... to ensure legitimate use of import permits." According to our sources, "from living sources" means plastics scrap from residential sources, which is banned, but industrial plastics scrap may be exempt. Definitions remain unclear, but we continue to work to gain clarity for our members.

China Officially Announces its Intent to Ban Scrap Imports

Following on its notification to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Government of China officially announced on July 21, 2017, it has "banned the importation of 24 categories of solid waste such as waste plastics, unsorted waste paper, waste raw textile materials, and vanadium slag that pose very high risk of environmental pollution." While no further details are given on the specific materials to be included in the ban, the statement describes the environmental concerns the government hopes to address by prevent imports of solid waste into China. Read the full announcement here in English and here in Chinese.

China Intends to Ban Certain Scrap Imports

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its intent to ban the import of certain scrap materials by year end. Among the items included on the list are most scrap plastics ("including polymers of ethylene, styrene, vinyl chloride and PET..."), mixed paper and slags and drosses.

ISRI has already notified the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Commerce on the devastating impact such a ban will have on the global recycling industry, especially because ISRI has heard that China is considering additional notifications in the future on other scrap materials. Upon receiving this information, ISRI immediately briefed U.S. officials in preparation for tomorrow's U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue (CED) in Washington.

With more than $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.

The scrap recycling industry is the first link in the global manufacturing supply chain. Recycled materials are key inputs into the production of new, usable commodities for the use in value-add production. 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 $495 million in scrap plastics (or 1.42 million tons).

More than 155,000 direct jobs are supported by the U.S. industry's export activities, earning an average wage of almost $76,000 and contributing more than $3 billion to federal, state, and local taxes. A ban on imports of scrap commodities into China would be catastrophic to the recycling industry.

ISRI will continue to follow this development and provide information as soon as it is available.

If you have any questions, please contact Adina Renee Adler.

National Sword 2017

China's Xinhua News Agency reported on February 8, 2017 that China's General Administration of Customs would launch a one-year campaign to crack down on illegal smuggling of "foreign waste," including industrial waste, electronic waste, household waste and plastic waste, according to the report. The report says the crackdown is part of a larger initiative, translated as "National Sword 2017," which aims to curb what the government considers is a rise in smuggling of agricultural products, resource products, drugs, guns, and other illegal smuggling activities, in addition to scrap and waste. The report says the crackdown will specifically "target gangs and well-organized operations acting illegally."

Since then, ISRI has received mainly anecdotal reports of 100% container inspections at the ports, which has caused delays and added storage and demurrage costs. Many members are worried about the impact on future business as suppliers and customers wrangle over the assumption of risk.

On April 18, 2017, China's Xinhua News Agency reported that the Central Government Reform Enforcement Taskforce overseen by President Xi Jinping approved a resolution that will expand the list of prohibited solid waste materials allowed for import into China. According to the report, the meeting aimed to preserve environmental, health and safety of China and its people and to improve the country's import management system and promote overall solid waste management in China. This appears to be in reaction to captured illegal imports as part of the ongoing enhanced enforcement and inspections under National Sword. Unfortunately, we still do not have official information on what materials will be added to the import ban, but we are advised that the Ministry of Environmental Protection is updating its "waste import catalogues" to expand on the current lists of prohibited waste materials. We are hearing a number of rumors about metals, paper and plastics being the most impacted but in different magnitudes and in different timelines. ISRI members are, naturally, worried about the future access to the Chinese market.

Trade With China

U.S. Exports to China
Overview - English
Overview - Chinese
Trade Data

EU Exports to China
Aggregate EU
EU Countries

Regulations of the People's Republic of China

Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution Caused by Solid Waste
November 7, 2016
Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

Amended Catalogues of Restricted Waste Imports
January 1, 2015
Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce, National Development and Reform Committee, General Administration of Customs, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)

Measures on the Administration of Import of Solid Waste
April 8, 2011
Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce, National Development and Reform Committee, General Administration of Customs, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)

Regulations for Scrap Imports Usable for Raw Materials, No. 119
August 21, 2009
General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)

National Catalogue of Hazardous Wastes
June 6, 2008
Ministry of Environmental Protection

Environmental Protection Control Standards for Imported Solid Wastes as Raw Materials (GB 16487)
The complete set of standards are available in English and Chinese. A breakdown of standards for a specific material can be found on the CCICNA website.
General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)