- The Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) recently announced plans to launch a confidential online tool for North American companies to report any rejected scrap shipments to China.
- According to a 2015 study, as reported by Plastics News, up to 21% of recovered plastics in Canada are exported and China is a top buyer. Data collected through this tool will help assess the prevalence of rejected shipments while also providing a better understanding of how much domestic capacity is being used. Though as Joe Hruska, CPIA's vice president of sustainability, told Resource Recycling, this policy change still serves as an inspiration for facilities to ensure they're shipping cleaner material.
- CPIA will also be working with fellow members of the North American Plastics Recycling Alliance — including the Association of Plastic Recyclers, the American Chemistry Council and the Plastics Industry Association — as well as the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) to develop alternative markets.
The Chinese scrap market has been tightening in recent years and reports indicate that authorities were already increasing their scrutiny leading up to July's broader scrap restriction announcement that evoked a new level of industry reaction. In the weeks since, China has begun to offer more details about why and how it will be implementing this. The country cites an interest in improving environmental standards as the main reason, though increasing the scope of its own domestic recycling market is also seen as the driving factor. Some clarification has been offered that shows more of a focus on post-consumer plastics and paper than industrial materials, but details remain vague and multiple industry groups are concerned.
ISRI recently submitted comments to the World Trade Organization calling for China to provide more details on the new policy and consider reversing it entirely. In the document, ISRI estimates that 18% of U.S.-China scrap trade worth more than $532 million per year will be affected by the policy. Like other industry groups, ISRI is making the case that this will be economically damaging for both countries and has expressed a willingness to help ensure cleaner material is exported, saying, "The U.S. recycling industry stands ready to help China to prevent deficient practices that harm the physical environment in China. The U.S. recycling industry also supports the Government of China’s efforts to improve domestic collection, processing and distribution of scrap materials and welcomes the opportunity to provide information and training on operational best practices..."
Some in the U.S. industry see this as an opportunity to increase investment in domestic processing infrastructure, but even if that does occur, export markets will still be needed. If the effects of China's new policy are as drastic as some expect then markets will expand in other countries as a result. Though because details are still unclear and markets are hard to predict it's too soon to know what will happen come 2018. With enough participation the new tool proposed by CPIA will help gather data that can offer much-needed perspective on how this will all play out.