China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) finalized a quality standard of 0.5 percent for certain imported recyclables on Jan. 11, failing to properly consider the negative effects on global recycling efforts, according to the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA).
“SWANA is disappointed the Chinese government did not modify its waste import restrictions in response to the serious concerns raised by North American, European and Asian governmental authorities and associations,” David Biderman, SWANA executive director and CEO, says. “We support the MEP’s efforts to improve the environment in China, but these extraordinary restrictions are already adversely impacting recycling programs throughout North America.”
SWANA continues to monitor the impacts of the restrictions, which have already been felt across North America. Biderman notes that “recyclables are going to landfills in Oregon, to waste-to-energy facilities in Massachusetts, and being stored in warehouses and parking lots in the U.S. and Canada.”
Many American and Canadian companies and local governments have made substantial changes to their operations in response to the restrictions and the sharp decrease in import licenses issued by Beijing in late 2017 and 2018. Now that the quality standard has been finalized, North American recycling operations must prepare for March 1, 2018, when the contamination standard officially takes effect.
SWANA urges state and local governments to work closely with the private sector and other stakeholders to educate consumers about the need for recyclables to be free from contamination, and encourages operational changes that result in cleaner materials.
SWANA submitted comments to the World Trade Organization in August 2017 and December 2017 asking the Chinese government to delay implementation of its waste import restrictions, seeking clarification on the standards and offering technical assistance on waste- and recycling-related matters.