Why it Matters to Recycling
A strong and robust recycling industry is critical to a healthy manufacturing sector. The U.S. scrap industry is a significant exporter of high-quality scrap commodities to industrial consumers worldwide. With the steady growth in China’s industrial economy, there has been an ever increasing demand for scrap supplied from the United States and around the world. As a result of China’s industrial production, plastic and paper scrap consumption increased 50% and 70%, respectively, over the last decade. Overall, 31% percent of U.S. scrap commodity exports – worth $5.6 billion – were sent to China in 2017.
As part of China’s environmental protection drive, the government implemented on January 1, 2018, a ban on scrap plastics from household collections and unsorted, mixed paper from all sources, affecting more than $500 million of exports to China. Then, on April 19, 2018, China announced the intent to ban all plastics, small electric motors and insulated wire by the end of 2018 and stainless steel and other metallic scrap by the end of 2019. This will affect an additional $446 million of U.S. scrap exports.
In addition, on March 1, 2018, the Chinese government implemented stricter technical standards for scrap imports, allowing only shipments that meet very strict thresholds for allowable contaminants to be imported. Unfortunately, existing technology makes meeting those targets a challenge for most scrap commodities.
Through these policies and additional measures since, the Chinese government is curtailing the free and fair trade of scrap commodities into China.