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China to eliminate solid waste imports by 2020

An announcement from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China asserts the country’s determination to eliminate imports of solid waste by the end of 2020. However, it is not yet clear whether this is a new policy or a reaffirmation of a strategy from last year.

The Xinhua news agency has reported on a wide-ranging policy statement from the central committee released on 16 June that outlines the Chinese government’s overall strategy for reducing pollution in itscountry.

An unofficial translation by the US-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) is: ‘China has completely banned the entry of foreign garbage, cracked down on smuggling, drastically reduced the number and types of solid waste imports, and strives to achieve zero imports of solid waste by the end of 2020.’

‘No doubt’

ISRI says it believes this is ‘a reaffirmation of policy statements made in 2017 rather than a new policy or a new ban, although we are in the process of confirming that’.

It adds: ‘There is no doubt that China’s import restrictions continue to create many challenges for the recycling industry, especially given the short transition time. But this statement confirms that the restrictions are here to stay.’

Previous policy drives by the Chinese, such as Operation Green Fence in 2013 and the current Operation National Sword have had severe impacts on the exports of secondary materials from the US, Europe and other ‘developed’ areas.

Not self-sufficient

The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has responded to the new statement by saying: ‘As Governments create their circular economies by substituting primary raw materials with recycled raw materials, questions will inevitably arise about exactly when wastes cease to be wastes and become those recycled raw materials.

‘Furthermore, countries that are not self-sufficient in recycled raw materials will need to import them for their manufacturing needs. BIR predicts further changes to Chinese standards and laws in order to affect its recycled raw material needs.’

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