Word is Spreading that Scrap is NOT Waste

They say that when China sneezes, the world catches a cold. This is certainly coming to fruition as the Chinese government’s scrap import restrictions – although not officially in place – have already changed the nature of global scrap trade.

But can the same also be true that when China changes a paradigm the rest of the world could stand up and listen? We might have that opportunity now.


In November, ISRI attended the China Nonferrous Metals Association (CMRA) annual convention.


·         The event took place under the gloom of China’s evolving regulatory structure.

·         Attendance was significantly lower with the exhibit hall being one-third of last year’s convention.

In a surprisingly open dialogue session, Chinese companies were worried about their future under the new regulations. But, there were no government officials in the room.

Earlier in the day, there was a veritable parade of government officials present from various agencies that have responsibility over the recycling industry.

·         The CMRA convention was just weeks after the conclusion of the 19th Party Congress which is a major political event that happens only every five years.

·         Each official reiterated the government’s intent to improve environmental conditions.

·         They explained how increasing domestic recycling while curbing “solid waste” imports would contribute to the ultimate goal of a “Beautiful China” by the year 2035.

·         The biggest surprise of all was a presentation by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) acknowledging that trash and scrap are handled differently.

·         MEP said more effort should be made to educate the Chinese people about the differences between scrap and waste.

·         MEP said the 19th Party Congress’ final document acknowledges this distinction.

Why it’s important:

ISRI has been fighting for years to increase awareness that scrap is not waste. For China, more clear distinctions in rules and regulations could prevent unwanted trash from accumulating in China but not at the detriment of high value scrap commodities in great demand by China’s manufacturers. This recent announcement by the Chinese government is just one step. There would be reams of Chinese legislation and regulations to modify in order to make laws on solid waste that also impact scrap conform with this changing policy direction. But, it is an important step forward and possibly the start of a wave that could spread to other regions in the world.

Contact: Adina Renee Adler, (202) 662-8514.


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