Chinese directive could massively change scrap flows

Chinese directive could massively change scrap flows

Central government of China announces intention to ban several types of scrap from being imported.


The central government of the People’s Republic of China has reviewed and approved a prohibition on imports of several type of as yet unidentified scrap materials. The ban of the set of scrap materials is part of China’s “reformed solid waste import management plan.”

According to the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) , the plan was approved on Wednesday, April 18, 2017, when China’s President Xi Jinping held the 34th meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the People’s Republic of China.

At the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) ISRI2017 convention in late April in New Orleans, recyclers of from across the spectrum of materials expressed concerns about which grades of scrap might be on the list.

Metals recyclers identified mixed shredded metals, radiators and unprocessed wire and cable as grades that could be affected. Paper recyclers have mentioned the mixed paper grade as a likely target, with hopes that old corrugated containers (OCC) can remain acceptable.

Plastic scrap shipments are already being turned away or charged with stiff tariffs at ports in China as part of the National Sword customs clearance program.

The business models of many manufacturing firms in China, including containerboard makers, copper refiners and secondary aluminum producers, and for recyclers around the world hinge on the trade of scrap from other nations into China. According to a recently compiled ISRI database, more than half of the copper scrap traded across international boundaries in in 2015 was imported by China.

Industry trade groups as well as government commerce departments around the world may react to oppose the Chinese plan in its current format. China is striving to attain market economy status as a World Trade Organization (WTO) member nation, and the scrap ban may be seen as a blatant violation of WTO policies.

According to the BIR, the Chinese central government directive spells out “that in order to maintain national ecological and environmental safety as well as people’s health in general and improve the import management system of solid waste, different subsectors should develop and implement a ban on solid waste imports through the adjustment of the import directory by categories in order to substantially reduce imports by type and volume through legal, economic and administrative means.”

Another goal of the directive, according to the BIR, is to “strengthen the regulation on solid waste management for the development of the Chinese circular economy.”

The BIR says China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has been tasked with formulating the “new waste import catalogues” with a wider list of materials.