On Apr 19th, 2018, Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) issued a notice and made some revisions to the Management Catalogue of Imported Solid Waste. The revisions schedule a complete ban on the import of waste plastics from the end of this year.
The Management Catalogue of Imported Solid Waste in China contains three sub-catalogues:
- Catalogue of Banned Imported Solid Waste;
- Catalogue of Restricted Imported Solid Waste Used as Raw Materials;
- Catalogue of Non-restricted Imported Solid Waste Used as Raw Materials.
The revisions appended 32 kinds of imported waste to the Catalogue of Banned Imported Solid Waste, which are:
- 16 kinds of solid waste including waste plastics from industrial sources, waste ships, metal scraps, compressed scrap automobiles, etc., effective from Dec 31st, 2018;
- 16 kinds of solid waste including waste stainless steel, titanium waste, wood waste, etc., effective from Dec 31st, 2019.
This is China’s 2nd revision to the Management Catalogue of Imported Solid Waste within a year. The last revision was made in Aug 2017 and banned the import of waste plastics from other sources. After the 2nd revision this time, China will completely ban the import of waste plastics.
China plays an important role in the global recycling industry. In 2016, a total of 15 million tons of waste plastics were traded around the world and over half of them flowed into China. China took 40% of US’s plastic recycling and an even higher percentage of the UK’s plastic waste. With China closing its door to foreign garbage import, especially waste plastics, global industry is feeling the pressure. Recycling enterprise in North America have been exploring the possibility of exporting more solid waste to Southeast Asian countries and the UK has considered imposing taxes on certain plastic products in order to reduce the use.
The waste plastic import ban also affected China’s domestic recycling market. China used to import over 7 million tons of waste plastics every year, which accounted for 1/3 of the total amount of recycled plastics in the country. But the figure dropped sharply last year and the price of waste plastic products such as plastic beverage bottles rose considerably. China’s recycling industry has been reacting to the policy change. More and more enterprises have built plants outside the country to process the waste plastics to plastic grains and then import the plastic grains into China as ordinary raw materials instead of solid waste. Also, the industry is increasing domestic recycling volume to compensate for the reduction in import volume.