Responses to China’s Contamination Standards

The industry has been anxious about China’s decisions ever since they announced their rejection of solid waste last year along with new contamination standards. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) finalized their contamination standard last month at an unmoved 0.5 percent. The National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) voiced their opinions about the nominal standard.


The Statements

Waste 360 reported on NWRA, ISRI, and SWANA’s statements last month. Here’s what each association expressed:

NWRA. President and CEO of NWRA, Darrell Smith, noted in his statement, “NWRA has always supported China’s efforts to improve its environment. However, we believe there are better ways to achieve those goals than to tighten restrictions on imported recyclables.” He went on to address the limiting standard: “We have said before that the 0.5 percent standard would be nearly impossible for our members to meet and it could cause for some sort-term disruptions in the industry.”

ISRI. The scrap recycling association had something different to say about the issue. Waste 360 quoted ISRI President Robin Wiener in describing how the association is “very disappointed to see the Chinese Government finalizing its Environmental Protection Control Standards.” Wiener expounded on her thoughts about these standards by offering that the Chinese Government is “failing to take the opportunity to bring them in line with global standards that reflect manufacturing requirements and are utilized by environmentally responsible recycling operations in the U.S. and around the world.”

SWANA. Executive Director and CEO David Biderman also reveals disappointment from SWANA in that “the Chinese government did not modify its waste import restrictions in response to the serious concerns raised by North America, European and Asian governmental authorities and associations.” SWANA expressed their concern regarding how many changes North American companies and governments have made to keep up with China’s consistent changes made late last year. Biderman also called attention to where recyclables are currently going. There seems to be an exceeding amount of clutter taking up spaces in landfills, warehouses, and parking lots, according to the CEO.


Details and Delays

It appears that after much concerted effort, the associations’ comments and involvement were still futile. China continues to stand their ground with their new contamination standards and import ban. The industry has shown their disapproval for the changes since there first was discussion about the import ban. These changes are going to push the industry to come up with different solutions.


Industry Optimism

Regardless of the associations’ opinions, there is not much more they can do to inspire change within China. They must proactively determine what is best for the industry and the environment. Even through their mostly-disappointed statements, the associations still tried to maintain a level of optimism on the situation.

NWRA’s President and CEO employed a hopeful outlook on the issue and gave it a positive spin by stating, “It could also present opportunities as our members continue to adjust. As an association, we will continue to work with our industry partners and the federal government to reduce the burden these stringent rules have placed on the waste and recycling industry.”

ISRI also tried to turn their statement on a positive note by reporting, “We continue to be supportive of the Chinese government’s drive to improve the environment in China, but we continue to hope that such support can be realized through collaboration” without hindering trade and China’s goals.

SWANA also followed optimistic pursuits in saying they “support the MEP’s efforts to improve the environment in China, but these extraordinary restrictions are already adversely impacting recycling programs throughout North America.”

If you handle large amounts of recycled waste and are looking for solutions to offload idle scrap, please contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill Supply.

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