China Offers More Clues Regarding Import Bans

Since China’s initial notification to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 18th of this year, Chinese authorities have continued to drop hints as to specific material grades slated for rejection.

Though agency hints remain rather nebulous, we now believe we have more information that may help the US recycling industry and exporters prepare for December 31st, the date bans will go into full effect.

Here’s what we know so far:

As far as plastics are concerned, post-consumer resins, including PE, PET, PS, PVC, and “other” recovered plastics, will likely be subject to an outright ban. Alternatively, post-industrial recycled plastics, though on a restricted list, might be allowed through ports into mainland China.

Regarding scrap paper imports, the list of banned recovered paper (RCP) is much longer. Prohibited fibers include:

  • recovered wallpaper
  • wax-coated paper and waxed paper
  • carbon paper and carbonless copy paper
  • thermal paper
  • moisture sticker paper
  • paper used in liquid packaging – this likely refers to food and beverage packaging
  • all mixed paper

The outlook for recovered paper isn’t entirely bleak. “Restricted” has been interpreted as referring to materials likely allowed. Scrap paper on the restricted list includes:

  • unbleached kraft paper or paperboard
  • corrugated paper or paperboard
  • miscellaneous paperboard grades, mostly bleached chemical pulp
  • high-grade deinked paper and paperboard
  • paper or paperboard made mainly of mechanical pulp (e.g. newspapers and journals)

Despite new information, many concerns and questions remain for industry insiders.

Washed and processed recovered thermoplastics have been removed from the standards. Additionally, nearly pure plastic scrap originating from distribution centers or bulk retail warehouses are considered as post-consumer materials.

Further recovered paper restrictions appear to be in the making as well. Based on translations of an online document written by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, “a maximum contamination rate of 0.3 percent on all grades” will be set by the end of the year which will certainly be difficult for most of us.

Material restrictions are not the only worry. Import licenses have been in short supply, leaving many Chinese processors facing the possibility of shortages and subsequent halts to operations. Without licensed material processors, US exporters could see many bales warehoused for the time being. No new permits have been issued since June; however Chinese officials have stated they will begin issuing permits soon, warning approval will be based on a company’s July environmental inspection results.

Clearly, there are still many questions in need of answers. As regulations unfold, Berg Mill Supply will work hard to provide businesses with the most up-to-date information.

If you generate, handle, or process waste and would like to strengthen your position in this uncertain market, please contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill Supply. As we have done in the past, Berg Mill continues to work hard on creating solutions to overcome fluctuating commodity markets, including opening markets in other countries, forging strategic alliances, and improving domestic processing capabilities.