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China accepts scrap metal is not solid waste

An announcement from the Chinese Government setting out plans to implement a new standards regime for imports of recycled copper, brass, and aluminium is being welcomed as recognition that these are valuable raw materials within global trade.

The US-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has reported the development, saying it indicates scrap metals will not be managed under the same guidelines for solid waste. Depending on the metal and grade, material must be 90-99.5% contaminate free and ready for the smelter.

‘This is a major achievement after two decades of ISRI advocating that ”Scrap is Not Waste”,’ the ISRI statement says. ‘The required metal content and limitations on contamination are not set at one level for all grades, another indication that the Chinese Government acknowledges that a one-sized-fits-all approach is not in line with market conditions.’

The China Nonferrous Metals Association Recycling Branch has published the required metal recovery content and contamination limits for imported scrap and ISRI understands that the Standardization Administration of China will announce more detailed rules shortly.  

The ISRI statement adds that it is still not known if China will impose import quotas on materials meeting the new standards but materials originating from the United States will continue to face 25% import tariffs levied under the current US-China trade dispute.

Adina Renee Adler, assistant vice president for international affairs at IRSI, said: ‘ISRI has been advocating to the Chinese Government for nearly 20 years that scrap should be pulled out of the ”solid waste” import regime and recognised as a valuable raw material. It appears China is doing just that with selected grades of scrap, for which we salute China for setting this important precedent.’

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