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  May 24th, 2018 | Written by

China Extends Ban on Recyclables Imports

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  • Steel, auto parts, and ships are among the items China will no longer import for recycling.
  • In July 2017, China announced it would no longer accept imports of plastic, textiles, paper, and other commodities.
  • China’s latest import restrictions on scrap and waste should not have come as a complete surprise.

The Chinese government has announced that it is extending the ban it imposed last year on imports of items like paper and plastic waste many more types of recyclable materials, including steel, used auto parts, and ships.

For decades, other countries shipped containers full of scrap and waste to China for recycling. But Beijing decided last year to ban imports of 24 varieties of solid waste, shocking the recycling industry.

In July 2017, China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would no longer accept imports of plastic, textiles, unsorted paper, artificial fibers, and certain metals. The restrictions entered into force in September 2017 and all imports of these items were blocked by the end of the year, jeopardizing more than $5 billion in exports from the United States.

China’s State Council later went further signaling last year that China had the goal of ending all solid waste and scrap imports by 2019 and replacing them with domestic sources, so that the latest move should not have come as a complete surprise.

The latest ban—of 32 more types of recyclables—will come into effect for half of them at the end of this year, and the other half at the end of 2019.

Within weeks of last year’s ban, shippers and carriers already felt an impact on US scrap and waste exports. At the time, a Maersk spokeswoman expected volumes to rebound as exporters adapted to the Chinese restrictions.

But recent reporting indicates that has not been the case. Recycling waste piling up in developed countries, with one city in Australia recently announcing it would start burying recyclable waste. Experts say the ban will cause environmental problems in China and will boost the costs of Chinese manufacturers who don’t have access to recycled materials. Having to buy new paper products and instead of recycled materials increases their costs as well as their negative environmental footprint.