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Chinese import ban would have ‘devastating’ impact

Asia – The BIR world recycling organisation has expressed ‘serious concerns’ over China’s intended import ban on several scrap materials – including certain types of plastic, mixed paper, slags and drosses, ash, waste wool, cotton and yarn.

China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 18 of its plans to stop accepting imports of certain wastes by the end of 2017 as part of its National Sword campaign.

Despite lamenting the short time frame for stakeholders to make comments on the matter, BIR emphasises that it will nevertheless present a submission to the WTO.

According to the world recycling body, it intends to demonstrate to the Chinese government and to other stakeholders ‘the devastating impact that such a ban would have on the global recycling industry’, as well as on the economy and the environment within China and worldwide.

‘Whilst BIR and its members support and promote high quality standards for scrap exports, this ban – if implemented – will have a serious impact on the global recycling industry which has, in the last 25 years, supported China in its economic development and growth and met its manufacturing needs for secondary raw materials,’ observes BIR’s director general Arnaud Brunet.

He has written a letter to the WTO asking for an extension of the deadline for comments, arguing that the 48-hour deadline given on this occasion is ‘extremely short’  compared to the standard 60-day deadline, and that it would not allow all industry stakeholders to contribute to the discussion. 

Scrap materials valued at tens of billions of US dollars flow to China every year to support the domestic industry’s production needs, BIR points out. For example, it adds, China imported 7.3 million tons of plastic scrap and 27 million tons of recovered paper last year, with mixed paper accounting for 25-30% of the latter. A ban may result in a large amount of this mixed paper ending up ‘out of the circular economy stream’, the world federation argues.

‘A ban on imports of scrap commodities into China would be catastrophic to the recycling industry,’ urges Robin Wiener, president of the US Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). She fears that such actions from China would result in the loss of ‘tens of thousands’ of jobs and the closure of many recycling businesses throughout the United States.

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