Asia – National Sword rumour and counter-rumour were sweeping the conference hall at last week’s BIR world convention in Hong Kong.
During the very first of 14 meetings, BIR’s advisor on China’s policy and regulatory developments Ma Hongchang warned the world association’s non-ferrous metals division that, under its National Sword clampdown, the Chinese government could go as far as to ban imports of certain items of mixed metal scrap.
It was also Ma’s understanding that copper and aluminium scrap would be allowed into China for the moment but that a ‘tough’ review after 2020 would determine whether imports could continue or not.
The Chinese authorities have yet to issue timetables for import bans or details of the categories of scrap to be affected by National Sword but it was clear, said BIR non-ferrous metals division president David Chiao of Uni-All Group, that ‘very severe weather is coming towards us’.
Given the Chinese government’s desire to prohibit imports of any material that could contain contaminants and therefore lead to environmental pollution, the five- to 10-year view could see China halting imports of plastic scrap, warned Dr Steve Wong, executive president of the China Scrap Plastics Association.
There were even rumours that Chinese imports of film scrap could be halted as early as September this year, he told delegates to the BIR plastics committee meeting in Hong Kong.
During any hiatus in shipments to China, no other county in the region would be able to absorb the 7m-plus tonnes that the Chinese have been buying internationally each year, Dr Wong remarked.
Given yo-yoing freight rates, he added, the ‘most effective solution’ for the scrap plastics market would be increased processing at source.