ISRI Activity on China and related issues

Apr 4, 2019, 17:35 PM
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July/Aug 2017


ISRI has spoken out about how proposed U.S. and Chinese regulatory changes will affect the scrap industry.

* In May, ReMA President Robin Wiener met officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., accompanied by Bernie Lee, ISRI’s research analyst for commodities. At their meetings with the minister-counselor and first secretary, Wiener and Lee discussed such issues as China’s National Sword program, China’s scrap export certification and inspection requirements, and the harmonization of ReMA specifications and those of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

* In June, after hearing rumors of a potential ban on scrap imports into China, ReMA staff aggressively reached out to senior officials in the Trump administration and members of Congress to make the case for open and free markets for scrap.

September/October 2017

ISRI Speaks Out About China’s Scrap Import Ban

When rumors emerged earlier this year that China intended to prohibit imports of certain scrap materials, ReMA President Robin Wiener alerted the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Commerce that such a move could be devastating to the global recycling industry. When China notified the World Trade Organization in July of its intent to impose such bans by the end of the year, Wiener issued a statement reiterating the potential consequences. “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,” she said in the statement.

In an interview with China’s CGTN America television network in early August, Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s senior director of government relations and international affairs, pointed out that the materials China apparently intends to prohibit are valuable commodities and not waste. The ban would also affect Chinese businesses, she said. Contact Adler, 202/662-8514 or

Radio Tour Reaches More Than 25 Million Listeners

Joe Pickard, ISRI’s chief economist and director of commodities, conducted a series of radio interviews in June highlighting the results of ISRI’s 2017 study on the economic impacts of scrap recycling. “In the United States alone, our industry generates more than $116 billion in economic activity every year and supports more than 530,000 jobs,” Pickard told station WCTC-AM in New Jersey. At the end of 25 taped and live interviews in one day with stations across the country, Pickard’s recap of the report’s major findings reached an estimated 25.5 million people. Visit

November/December 2017

ISRI Addresses China’s Proposed Scrap Import Restrictions

ISRI has informed the U.S. government that China’s proposed restrictions on contamination in imported scrap violate terms of its admission to the World Trade Organization. China, the largest importer of many U.S. scrap commodities, says it will impose a contamination allowance of 0.3 percent in scrap it imports, reportedly as part of the country’s efforts to improve the environment and develop its domestic recycling industry. “The application of this standard will effectively result in a ban on the importation of all these commodities,” ReMA President Robin Wiener stated in a letter to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. “It is simply not possible to achieve such a control level, nor is it possible to even measure it with such accuracy.”

In comments submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative, ReMA described the challenges the recycling industry is already facing due to China’s announcement. The USTR will present its final report on China’s WTO compliance in December to members of Congress, “who will continue to put pressure on the administration to take China to task for policies that impact legitimate trade, including the high value of scrap commodities,” says Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s senior director of government relations and international affairs.

ISRI staff members spoke about the China scrap ban in several industry forums this fall. Chief Economist and Director of Commodities Joe Pickard spoke at the Resource Recycling Conference in August in Minneapolis about its potential impacts on scrap metal markets, a subject also addressed during ISRI’s Commodities Roundtable Forum in September in Chicago. At the Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference in October in Chicago, ReMA Chief Lobbyist Billy Johnson and Paper Stock Industries Chapter President Myles Cohen of Pratt Recycling (Conyers, Ga.) described ISRI’s efforts to work with China on the issue. And ReMA Chair Mark Lewon of Utah Metal Works (Salt Lake City) joined Wiener and Adler at the Bureau of International Recycling’s (Brussels) convention in October in New Delhi, where they discussed the global implications of China’s actions. ReMA and BIR representatives agreed to continue coordinating their advocacy efforts, along with those of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (Brussels), Canadian Association of Recycling Industries (Ottawa), and British Metals Recycling Association (Huntingdon, England), Adler says. Contact her at 202/662-8514 or

ISRI Collects Member Input for Recycling Roadmap

ISRI invited members in September to provide feedback to the REMADE Institute that could help manufacturers develop ways to improve recycling and recovery technologies. ReMA is an affiliate member of REMADE (Reducing Embodied Energy and Decreasing Emissions in Materials Manufacturing), a U.S. Department of Energy project led by the Rochester Institute of Technology. The organization seeks ways to drive down the costs and increase the efficiency of technologies recyclers and others use for material recovery, reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing.

The information REMADE collected from ReMA members and others will help shape its five-year program, according to David Wagger, ISRI’S chief scientist and director of environmental management. REMADE’s goals for the next five years are to improve manufacturing material efficiency 5 to 10 percent, increase remanufacturing applications 50 percent, increase the efficiency of remanufacturing operations 30 percent, increase recycling efficiencies 30 percent, increase sales for the U.S. manufacturing industry 50 percent, to $21.5 billion, and create a next-generation recycling and manufacturing workforce. Contact Wagger at 202/662-8533 or

January/February 2018
ISRI Board Approves 2018 Budget, Support for Industry Initiatives

At ISRI’s fall board and governance meeting Nov. 6–8 in Washington, D.C., the board of directors unanimously approved the organization’s 2018 budget with additional funding to support some of the recycling industry’s most pressing national and global issues. Notably, the ReMA board approved

* spending up to $60,000 to retain a lawyer based in China to provide timely information on and translation of Chinese actions and policies that affect scrap recycling and trade;

ISRI Provides Guidance on Complying With China’s Import Policies

After meeting with Chinese and U.S. government officials and industry representatives in China in December, ReMA President Robin Wiener explained to ReMA members that China’s actions to significantly restrict imports of scrap commodities it deems “waste” are part of new rules across all sectors of its economy to address what President Xi Jinping views as an environmental crisis. Recyclers exporting to China should expect a period of confusion and inconsistency in enforcement as the rules are implemented, Wiener said. For recommendations on how to minimize problems, see “Preparing Shipments to China” on page 54 of this issue.

During their China trip, Wiener and Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s senior director of government relations and international affairs, offered assistance to the Chinese agencies tasked with developing and implementing the new rules, including helping these agencies differentiate between waste and scrap. Wiener and Adler also briefed a working group of officials from multiple scrap-exporting countries in Beijing who are developing a strategy to work with the Chinese government on behalf of the scrap recycling industry.

In November, Adler participated in a 17-interview radio tour that reached across the United States, informing more than 12.3 million listeners about the ban’s potential impacts on recycling. She also offered suggestions for what municipalities and the public can do to help create a cleaner recycling stream. Reach her at 202/662-8514 or

March/April 2018
ISRI Leaders Meet With Indian Recyclers

ISRI representatives learned from Indian government officials about the policies the nation is developing that could affect the recycling industry, such as lowering import duties and removing the pre-shipment inspection certification requirement, at the Metals Recycling Association of India’s annual metal recycling conference, held Jan. 18-19 in Goa. Chair Mark Lewon, immediate past Chair Doug Kramer, and Chair-elect Brian Shine attended the meeting along with President Robin Wiener and Senior Director of Government Relations and International Affairs Adina Renee Adler. The Indian government officials also praised the work of MRAI, which announced during the meeting its intention to change its name to the Materials Recycling Association of India, expanding its membership and advocacy for recyclers of all materials. Contact Adler at 202/662-8514 or

May/June 2018

At its April 16 meeting, the board took the following actions:

* It approved a request from the Paper and Plastics divisions and the MRF Council for $40,000 to support the Association of Plastic Recyclers’ (Washington, D.C.) development, with ISRI’s input, of a 2-D/3-D separation and sortation protocol that brand owners could use to determine product and packaging recyclability.

ISRI Seeks Trade Clarity in China

ISRI President Robin Wiener (below) and Adina Renee Adler, senior director of government relations and international affairs, traveled to China in April to learn more about the country’s mid-April announcement of additional trade restrictions on scrap materials. Because the government is now restructuring, they were not able to meet with senior officials, Wiener says, but they will submit questions through ISRI’s partners at the China Scrap Plastics Association, the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

During the trip, Wiener spoke at the China International Metal Recycling Conference April 26 in Suzhou, and she and Adler attended the ChinaPlas 2018 trade show in Shanghai, where Wiener had the opportunity to see new technology for recycling agricultural film. Contact Adler at 202/662-8514 or

ISRI Calls for Stronger Recycling Infrastructure

* ReMA joined 10 other public- and private-sector organizations signing a letter that asks Congress to advance a recycling infrastructure package. The Plastics Industry Association (Washington, D.C.) delivered the letter to Capitol Hill April 11 outlining proposed priorities, including retrofitting materials recovery facilities with advanced sorting equipment, increasing the use of recycled material in infrastructure projects where appropriate, providing incentive grants for state and local governments to expand curbside recycling options, and promoting education and training to improve the public’s understanding of which materials are recyclable. Visit

* In a March 2 letter, ReMA and more than 100 other organizations urged the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) to resolve labor disputes at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports and conclude negotiations ahead of the contract expiring Sept. 30. U.S. scrap exports represent more than $16.5 billion a year in trade, and port disruptions—such as those that occurred on the West Coast four years ago—have costly effects on the scrap recycling industry and other industries and their supply chains, the letter said. ILA and USMX have scheduled meetings for June 5–7. Contact Billy Johnson at 202/662-8548 or

ISRI, SWANA Collaborate for MRF Summit

ISRI is working with the Solid Waste Association of North America to organize a Materials Recovery Facility Summit Aug. 22–23 during the Wastecon conference in Nashville, Tenn. The MRF Summit will bring together consumer brand owners, MRFs, retailers, scrap consumers, trade organizations, and municipal solid waste management professionals for educational sessions, keynote addresses, and networking events. The summit aims to promote collaboration among all stakeholders and raise awareness among SWANA members about ISRI’s inbound material specifications. Visit

Workshops Focus on Market Development

As a member of the National Recycling Coalition (Lafayette, Colo.), ReMA is sponsoring a series of regional workshops to help local communities develop recycling markets. The first workshop was April 4 in Portland, Ore., with presentations from Closed Loop Partners, the Glass Packaging Institute, Owens-Illinois, and others. NRC plans to hold additional workshops in the Midwest and Southeast later this year. Visit

July/August 2018
ISRI Advocates for Recyclers in U.S.–China Trade Actions

ISRI sent comments in May to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative recommending the exclusion of certain Chinese equipment parts used in the recycling industry from the Trump administration’s proposed 25-percent
import duty. ReMA pointed out that many small and medium-sized U.S. companies would be hurt by the additional costs for such parts, and the industry as a whole could lose jobs. The administration subsequently removed from the list equipment such as electromechanical appliances with self-contained electric motors and parts of trash compactors.

China is likely to strike back against the U.S. tariffs, but to date its published list of retaliatory tariffs does not include items that affect the recycling industry’s business with China, according to Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s senior director of government relations and international affairs. Contact Adler at 202/662-8514 or

ISRI Leaders Address China Trade Issues at BIR Meeting

China has consistently followed the path it first revealed a year ago, leading to its current restrictions on scrap imports, said ReMA President Robin Wiener at the Bureau of International Recycling’s (Brussels) World Recycling Convention and Exhibition in Barcelona May 27–30. ReMA continues to help recyclers interpret the directives and to gain clarification from China about such concepts as “carried waste,” she said. Wiener expressed concern that other countries would soon emulate China’s actions and urged recyclers to tell ReMA and BIR about their experiences. “We need to hear from you—and not just about China,” she said. “We need export markets. If you hear of something happening in other markets, then let us know.”

ISRI Chair Brian Shine of Manitoba Corp. (Lancaster, N.Y.) also participated in the event. Shine praised BIR President Ranjit Baxi in moving the recycling sector forward by launching Global Recycling Day March 18.

* Bernie Lee, ISRI’s research analyst for commodities, participated in a panel discussion on China’s import policies and their influence on supply and demand May 22 during RISI’s Asian Conference in Shanghai. Lee described the impacts on U.S. recycling and how markets may develop in the future. He also described ISRI’s paper specifications, noting that many of them relate to industrial as well as residential scrap. Contact Lee at 202/662-8502 or

* Adina Renee Adler, senior director of government relations and international affairs, also focused on the impacts of China’s regulations on U.S. recyclers during her keynote address June 12 at the Indiana Recycling Coalition’s annual conference and trade show. She pointed out that recyclers and city managers are concerned not only with improving quality and increasing recycling rates, but also with broader environmental changes and ways communities can reduce overall waste generation. Contact Adler at 202/662-8514 or

September/October 2018
ISRI Plans Trade Mission to Southeast Asia

ISRI’s Trade Committee has directed the ReMA staff to begin planning a trade mission in 2019 to Southeast Asian countries that are buying increasing volumes of U.S. scrap commodities. The trade mission’s goal will be to help grow demand for U.S. recyclable materials.

ISRI’s Trade Committee believes markets in countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia offer high potential growth for scrap exports due to their dynamic economies, growing manufacturing bases, expanding middle classes, and access to major trade lines. The sudden influx of scrap and development of new processing facilities in these countries, which followed China’s sudden scrap import restrictions in the past year, has in some cases led them to impose their own restrictions. A trade mission has the potential to discuss with these governments and scrap-consuming facilities the ReMA scrap specifications, RIOS and other certified management system standards, and the infrastructure required to manage significant volumes of scrap imports.

Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s senior director of government relations and international affairs, has started discussions about a possible trade mission with officials from the embassies of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. At the Thai embassy, she also addressed Thailand’s recently implemented plastic scrap import ban and ways to promote the legitimate trade of scrap commodities. Contact Adler at or 202/662-8514.

ISRI-Convened Group Seeks Consensus on quality, demand

ISRI drew together representatives from a dozen recycling-related groups in May to discuss collaborating on initiatives to help advance the recycling industry. The conversation focused on increasing the quality and demand for recycled materials and encouraging manufacturers to use recycled content in their products. After the discussion, ReMA released the group’s joint statement:

“As representatives of the complete recycling chain, we understand that improving the quality of the recycling stream and increasing the demand for recyclables in the manufacture of new products will deliver economic and environmental benefits nationwide. We commit to actively engaging with one another to enhance the nation’s recycling systems, while simultaneously continuing our own organizations’ work to influence change.”

The organizations participating in the discussion—and committing to cooperate in the future—were the American Forest & Paper Association (Washington, D.C.), AMERIPEN (St. Paul, Minn.), Association of Plastic Recyclers (Washington, D.C.), ISRI, Keep America Beautiful (Stamford, Conn.), Northeast Recycling Council (Brattleboro, Vt.), National Recycling Coalition (Lafayette, Colo.), National Waste & Recycling Association (Arlington, Va.), Plastics Industry Association (Washington, D.C.), The Recycling Partnership (Falls Church, Va.), Southeast Recycling Development Council (Hendersonville, N.C.), Sustainable Packaging Coalition (Charlottesville, Va.), and Solid Waste Association of North America (Silver Spring, Md.). Contact Jonathan Levy at 202/662-8530 or

ISRI Helps Local Governments With Residential Recycling

Bernie Lee, ISRI’s research analyst for commodities, gave a presentation at a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments meeting July 19 to help public officials in the Washington, D.C., area understand current trends affecting recycling. He discussed issues such as the need for public education about recycling, ISRI’s inbound material specifications for material recovery facilities, and the impacts trade policy changes in global markets have had on markets for materials collected in the residential recycling stream. Contact Lee at 202/662-8502 or

November/December 2018
ISRI Addresses Trade Concerns at Virtual Town Hall

More than 130 ReMA members participated in a discussion on trade issues during the organization’s members-only virtual town hall videoconference Sept. 20. ReMA Chair Brian Shine and President Robin Wiener led the discussion, along with Adina Renee Adler, senior director of government relations and international affairs, and Joe Pickard, chief economist and director of commodities.

The event addressed the impacts of scrap import regulations in China and other parts of Southeast Asia and the work ReMA has been doing on behalf of recyclers, including advocacy and public outreach, to meet these and other challenges. Members may log in and view the town hall webinar at ISRI’s Live Learning Center, Contact Adler at 202/662-8514 or and Pickard at 202/662-8542 or

MRF Summit Addresses Key Recycling Challenges

ISRI collaborated with the Solid Waste Association of North America (Silver Spring, Md.) to organize its first MRF Summit in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 22–23. The event brought together several hundred recyclers, municipalities, and brand owners to seek solutions for the recent challenges confronting material recovery facilities and the broader scrap recycling industry, including limitations on scrap exports to China and other countries and the changing residential recycling stream. ReMA President Robin Wiener participated in a panel discussion on changing markets for recyclable materials, joined by SWANA CEO David Biderman and Stephen Sikra, Procter & Gamble’s associate director of corporate research and development.

Summit attendees split into three breakout sessions, each of which used small group discussions to brainstorm solutions to MRF problems from a different angle: packaging design, MRF operations, and public policy. The groups later presented their consensus findings to the entire summit. Additional sessions addressed the need for material specifications and a standard set of metrics for measuring recycling performance. Proponents of single- and dual-stream collections both spoke on how they operate successfully.

There were several important take­aways from the meeting, including the idea the current crisis creates an opportunity to reform how residential recycling is conducted. Technological innovations, new markets for recycled materials, and other approaches will be needed, and stakeholders will need to continue to work together on such solutions.

ISRI’s Paper Stock Industries Chapter, Paper and Plastics divisions, and MRF Council were instrumental in planning and conducting the summit. For photos from the event, see ReMA Events on page 104.

Poll Reveals Potential Strategies for Improving Recycling Rates

Two out of three people say that if a product is difficult or inconvenient to recycle they probably won’t recycle it, according to results of a survey The Harris Poll conducted on behalf of ISRI. This insight suggests that brands and governments could help increase recycling by designing products with recycling in mind, adding recycling information to product labels, and making recycling convenient through improved collection efforts, says ReMA President Robin Wiener. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they would like to see manufacturers and/or retailers provide details about how much of a product they can recycle.

Nearly 80 percent of U.S. residents have access to curbside recycling programs where they live, but 36 percent of respondents with access said the programs could be improved, such as with more frequent pickups, separate bins for different recyclable materials, and larger recycling containers to manage volume. The online survey queried 2,003 U.S. adults from Sept. 17 to Sept. 19. Contact Mark Carpenter, 202/662-8525 or

* Bernie Lee, ISRI’s research analyst for commodities, spoke at Western Michigan University’s Recycled Fiber Course Aug. 7–9. The course’s goal was to lead participants through the full economic cycle of making and recovering paper and fiber. Discussions covered mills’ needs, curbside collection challenges, global fiber markets, and more. “The feedback has been so strong that we have already started planning next year’s course,” Lee reports. Contact him at 202/662-8502 or

January/February 2019
America Recycles Day outreach Includes Government, Media

The celebration of America Recycles Day Nov. 15 gave ReMA the opportunity to communicate key messages about the scrap recycling industry to government leaders and the public at large. ReMA President Robin Wiener joined other organizations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s special summit on recycling, “Building a More Resilient System Together.” A small gathering with EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler prior to the summit allowed Wiener to reiterate ISRI’s points about the definition of scrap versus waste and the need to generate demand for recycled commodities. During the summit, she outlined the resources ReMA can provide the EPA and other stakeholders, including specifications, market research, expertise, and international relationships. At the conclusion, Wiener and other representatives signed a memorandum of understanding to extend the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program to 2021.

Wiener also reported on the state of the recycling industry during a Nov. 14 briefing before the U.S. Senate Recycling Caucus. Joining Wiener on the panel were Ben Harvey of E.L. Harvey & Sons (Westborough, Mass.), who urged government to work with industry to promote the good that recycling does, and Stephanie Baker of KW Plastics (Troy, Ala.), who pointed out that plastics recycling has a net-zero carbon impact compared with using virgin resins.

Throughout the week of America Recycles Day, ReMA Senior Director of Communications Mark Carpenter conducted 15 radio interviews for outlets ranging from local community stations to nationally syndicated programs, discussing the impacts of China’s trade policies on recyclers, the importance of recycling education, the need for design for recycling, and other issues.

ISRI Promotes Industry Collaborations

In 2018, ReMA continued to convene meetings with an array of recycling-related groups to discuss collaborating on initiatives to advance the industry and enhance U.S. recycling. The November meeting featured a briefing by the REMADE Institute, of which ReMA is a member. REMADE (which stands for Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions) is a government-funded coalition pursuing technologies and research to advance recycling, recovery, remanufacturing, and reuse, thus reducing the energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with industrial production. The group also reviewed results of their America Recycles Day activities. Organizations that joined the original 13 participants for the latest meeting were the American Chemistry Council, the Aluminum Association, the Glass Packaging Institute, and the Steel Recycling Institute. “I am thrilled to be partnering with all of the organizations and believe that we are making excellent headway toward a bright recycling future,” ReMA President Robin Wiener says.

* Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s senior director of government relations and international affairs, spoke about the U.S. recycling industry and scrap market at the China Nonferrous Metals Association’s annual conference Nov. 8 in Guangzhou, China. Her presentation focused on promoting a greater understanding of scrap as a high-value material. Contact her at 202/662-8514 or

March/April 2019
ISRI plans trade mission to Southeast Asia

ISRI is organizing a members-only trade mission to Indonesia and Malaysia Nov. 3–12 to network, visit scrap recycling and consuming facilities, and explore business development opportunities in these dynamic markets. Registration will open in June for the 25 participant slots.  Visit for more information, or e-mail with inquiries and expressions of interest.

ISRI Advances Recycling Globally, Locally

In recent months, ReMA has represented U.S. recycling industry interests in a variety of forums at home and abroad.

Promoting scrap exports to India. ReMA Chair Brian Shine of Manitoba Corp. (Lancaster, N.Y.) and ReMA President Robin Wiener led a team of about a dozen ReMA members and staff who traveled to India in early February to explore the potential for expanding scrap markets there. India is in the process of developing a national recycling policy, which could expand its scrap trade, notes Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s assistant vice president of international affairs.

In New Delhi, the group met with the U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. government representatives supporting the nation’s commercial interests in India. In addition, the team met with the Bureau of Indian Standards to promote the use of ReMA specifications and with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to educate Indian leaders about the difference between scrap and waste and to promote scrap’s use in manufacturing. ReMA also participated in the Materials Recycling Association of India’s international conference in Kochi, which attracted about 1,200 participants, Adler says.

Supporting recycling in South America. Adler also traveled to Brazil and Argentina in December to connect with industry partners in those countries. She re-established connections with leaders of Brazil’s associations for aluminum and ferrous scrap and attended the Basel Convention’s working group meetings in Buenos Aires, which focused on environmentally sound management of recycling and disposal operations. Contact her at 202/662-8514 or

Briefing state legislators on recycling. ReMA Chief Economist and Director of Commodities Joe Pickard discussed the effects of China’s import restrictions on plastics and paper recycling at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual Capitol Forum, held Dec. 6 in Washington, D.C. After his presentation, attendees asked about new market opportunities in India and elsewhere, as well as ways materials recovery facilities and municipal recycling programs could decrease contamination rates, says Danielle Waterfield, ISRI’s senior director of government relations and assistant general counsel. Contact her at 202/662-8516 or

Explaining market volatility’s effects on municipal recycling. Bernie Lee, ISRI’s research analyst for commodities, reviewed the effects China’s trade policies have on municipal recycling programs at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Recycling Committee. Lee emphasized how recycling program administrators need to understand the market forces recyclers face while running environmentally responsible, economically sound businesses. Contact him at 202/662-8502 or

ISRI Activity on China and related issues

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