Is China’s shift to plastic pellet imports gaining steam?

Is China’s shift to plastic pellet imports gaining steam?

Chinese trade group points to recycled-content pellet growth at the same time ASEAN nations sour on plastic scrap imports.

July 9, 2018

The most recent edition of the China Replas 2018 e-newsletter contains four market updates: Three of them focus on resistance to plastic scrap imports in Southeast Asian nations, while the fourth points to volume increases in plastic pellet exports to China.

The early July dispatch from the China Synthetic Resin Association (CSRA), one of the organizers of the upcoming EXPO-ChinaReplas2018 event, follows coverage of plastic scrap import restrictions in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam with an article stating in part, “China has transformed itself from being the world’s largest importer of scrap plastics to the largest importer [of] recycled granulates.” (A recap of the plastic scrap import barriers forming in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] region can be found here.)

The article updating China’s situation lists the measures taken by China’s government in 2017 and early 2018 to stem the flow of imported (mostly baled) plastic scrap.

That is followed by recapping subsequent dialog between the CSRA and other stakeholders with the Chinese government to seek alternatives in the face of the baled scrap import ban.

According to the CSRA write-up, recycled-content plastic pellets were initially caught up in the same dragnet blocking baled plastic scrap imports. Customs officials in China, says the CSRA, were initially applying a principle of “three conformities [too] strictly” to pellets. Those principles refer to uniformity of color, size and shape in recycled material imports.

Despite the Customs confusion, recycled-content pellets have been flowing into Chinese ports, says the CSRA. “China’s imported [recycled-content pellets] have increased from less than 10,000 metric tons per month to 300,000 to 500,000 metric tons per month; the import volume has soared,” states the group.

CSRA says it is working with Chinese agencies, including the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and the General Administration of Customs (GACC) “to convey the opinions of the industry and the actual problems at the port.”

The dialog included meetings at the late April 2018 Spring Conference of China Replas and the late May 2018 Symposium on the Regulation of Recycling Plastic Particles, hosted by the GACC. At that event, says the CSRA, “the industry and the government worked together to seek solutions.”

Subsequently, in early June, “A systematic solution to this problem was developed and submitted to the MEE and the GACC,” according to the CSRA.

The trade group forecasts that sometime in July or August, “Customs clearance of recycling plastic particles [will] be normalized.”

The organization invites interested parties to contact it at and to attend its event in Dongguan in South China Sept. 13-14.