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China ends all waste imports

China has confirmed its proposed ban on the imports of all solid waste from the end of the year.

A notice issued by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the Ministry of Commerce, and the General Administration of Customs on 24 November says the ban also includes any dumping, stacking or disposal of waste products from overseas on Chinese territory.

The notice adds that the environment ministry has stopped accepting and approving applications for import licences. ‘Licences for solid waste issued in 2020 that can be used as raw materials should be stated in the certificate use within the validity period of 2020 and expire automatically after the expiry date.’

It goes on: ‘Solid waste produced by units in special customs supervision areas and bonded supervision places … shall be managed in accordance with domestic solid waste regulations. If it is necessary to leave the area for storage, utilisation or disposal, it shall go through relevant procedures with the administrative department of the local government in the special customs supervision area and bonded supervision place, and the customs shall no longer check the relevant approval documents.’

This total clampdown is the culmination of policies during the past decade to phase out imports of solid waste. In late 2017 China banned 24 types of waste including unsorted paper and textiles. Recycled imports must now meet meet high quality, low contamination, thresholds and are considered to be ‘raw materials’.

The moves have driven a big change in the supply of scrap with Chinese businesses that previously imported solid waste moving their recycling operations offshore, particularly to other southeast Asian countries.

As Recycling international has reported in recent issues, this has also included more acquisitions further afield such as the US – notably for paper – and the EU.

The Chinese Xinhua news agency notes that solid waste was originally imported as a source of raw materials in the 1980s and for years China was the world’s largest importer, despite limited domestic waste disposal.

Last year’s imports stood at 13.48 million tonnes, down from 22.63 million tonnes in 2018. In the first 10 months of this year, they fell 42.7% year-on-year.

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