Arrests, limited import licenses are latest developments in China's scrap policy
- During its latest round of crackdowns on scrap materials, Chinese officials arrested 39 suspects and seized 33,000 tons of "plastic and mineral waste," according to the South China Morning Post. According to Chinese customs officials, after three rounds of "concentrated crackdown," China has arrested 259 total suspects for importing more than 300,000 tons of illegal waste material.
- According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) issued two sets of guidelines for scrap importers and processors that contain eligibility requirements and regulate the use of scrap import permits and quotas. ISRI said the guidelines are meant to crack down on the common practice of Chinese companies sharing import licenses and quotas. Only companies that process scrap are now permitted to hold import licenses. Two guidelines were posted, one for all scrap companies and one specifically for paper scrap processors.
- Trump's visit to China could also affect the scrap import situation, according to ISRI. While in China, Trump is being accompanied by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. ISRI says both officials have been "fully briefed" on the challenges that face the domestic recycling industry because of China's shifting regulatory environment. The organization anticipates its issues will be raised during meetings with the Chinese government, but did not offer specifics.
Since China's "National Sword" policy started in March, the country has moved quickly to crac down on what kind of material it imports and how. Since China's filing with the World Trade Organization (WTO) indicating that it would no longer accept certain scrap material, the situation has become more dire. As the end of year deadline indicated in the original WTO filing approaches, it is likely that there will be more activity out of China.
This move by China to crack down on import licenses and quotas seems to indicate that Chinese officials are serious about the rationalizations they gave defending their actions — environmental protection. Part of that has been insisting on a standard that imported bales have less than 0.3% contamination, a level that is seen as implausible by many MRF operators. While ISRI and other groups are working to get Chinese policy to reflect the difference between "trash" and "scrap," recyclers will have to take quality control measures if they want to avoid further disruption. Already, Chinese companies that failed environmental inspections in July have lost licenses, had licenses denied or seen their quotas reduced, according to an email from ISRI.
It is likely that China will continue to enforce strict standards. What's unclear in this situation is whether Trump's visit to China will affect the situation. Trump campaigned on making trade deals more favorable for the U.S., but there has not been much public indication from the Department of Commerce or other government agencies that the scrap issue is a priority. In an email to Waste Dive, ISRI said it did not know if "any member of the President's delegation will be meeting with MEP."
- ISRI Leadership Update
- South China Morning Post 39 held as China expands crackdown on ‘foreign garbage’ imports
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