- Steve Wong, executive president of the China Scrap Plastics Association, said during a recycling conference earlier this month that China's scrap plastic imports could potentially drop more than 95% from 2017 levels, according to Plastics News.
- Wong said that through April, approximately 88.1 million pounds of plastic scrap had been allowed or approved for importation, and China has only authorized import permits for 375 million pounds of plastic. In 2017, the country imported 12.9 billion pounds of plastic for recycling.
- Wong also cautioned recyclers who are now exporting materials to countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, warning "nobody can guarantee that these Southeast Asian countries will not enforce their own National Sword or certain plastic will be banned."
While these numbers are only projections, it's safe to assume China won't ramp up such imports anytime soon. In fact, China's restrictions have only tightened this year, with the country recently announcing it will suspend all U.S. scrap imports until June 4 — a move that ISRI said will undoubtedly and "severely" impact the U.S. recycling industry.
Due to a limitation of options, more stockpiling, temporary disposal, program changes and processing price increases may be on the horizon for U.S. recyclers in the months ahead. Just this week, ABC Disposal threatened to stop collecting recyclables from five Massachusetts towns unless they agree to cover rising costs, while a transfer station in California has resorted to an increased use of bird calls to keep pests out of its scrap materials, which are piling up more rapidly than ever. Though the severity of challenges differs from state to state, the restrictions have had ripple effects through all U.S. regions.
The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) this week released a letter that says the China crisis is "our" crisis, as it has exposed challenges that the U.S. industry faces with education and enforcement of proper recycling habits. China is "shining a mirror on our recycling industry," the letter said, and it's up to leaders to immediately act on the matter to ensure the industry is reflected in a favorable manner.