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Update on China’s Restrictions for Scrap Plastics and Mixed Paper

The Chinese Government appears to be moving ahead with its plan to prevent scrap post-consumer plastics and mixed paper from import into China.

In August, the government published draft revisions to its technical standards, calling for a potential 0.3 percent prohibitives threshold for all materials and 80 percent recoverable and recyclable materials in appliances.

ISRI has pushed back on these proposals, arguing that it is impossible to meet and impossible to measure, and we requested more time to thoroughly study all the proposed changes. As of this writing, we have yet to hear what will be the final requirement.

We have also received reports about diminishing import quotas for nonferrous metals, particularly insulated wire and motors, sometimes referred to as “Category 7,” although we have not been able to find an official definition in China for “Category 7.”  In July, the Chinese government inspected more than 1,700 domestic processors and importers for compliance with environmental regulations, and 65 percent of them were noncompliant. As a penalty, Chinese importers are either losing import licenses, not receiving new ones, or being granted quotas of far less than requested. As a result, very few orders are being placed, and there is a potential that this could spill over into other nonferrous metals, including zorba.

ISRI has been deploying every tool in the arsenal to seek answers to the government's announcements to help minimize the impact on our members, to exchange information, and to offer support for China to reach its ultimate goal of improving the environment.

  • ISRI is in close coordination with the U.S. Government. We have been in to see officials in the White House, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and Members of Congress. Our concerns about China’s revised import policies will feature prominently in upcoming high level meetings, and we believe the U.S. Embassy is trying to work directly with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) to gain clarity on the scope of the import restrictions, to understand the timing for implementation, and to provide recommendations for more acceptable thresholds for prohibitives as according to ISRI Specifications.
  • ISRI has engaged with the Chinese Government through its Embassy in Washington, who have requested ISRI’s support to advise on best business practices in the recycling industry and are willing to try to help us engage with the appropriate authorities in Beijing.
  • China’s original announcements about the import restrictions and changes to their technical standards were announced with guidelines for submitting comments. We have done so – we promoted clarity in verbiage and the use of ISRI Specifications to help distinguish high-value scrap from unusable waste and submitted a series of questions to help clarify the scope of products to be captured by import restrictions.
  • China’s announcements are gaining global media attention. Every major recycling industry publication has written on the developments in China and actively sought ISRI’s views. We are now being contacted by mainstream media around the world – including The Economist, the Times of London, CNN London and the New York Times Hong Kong branch – for background and statements on what’s happening in China and how ISRI is supporting its industry.
  • We are working closely with the Bureau of International Recycling; counterpart associations in Canada, France, Germany, UK, Japan, and China; and other industry associations in the United States to speak up with one voice on the implications of China’s policies on global recycling.

Please contact either Adina Renee Adler or Billy Johnson for more information. 

Ferrous Beat Main

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