SWANA: Chinese scrap import ban could 'greatly diminish' support for recycling programs
- The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has filed comments with the World Trade Organization (WTO) responding to China’s announced scrap import ban. The comments outline SWANA's concerns with the ban, largely focusing on the short length of time between the July 2017 announcement and the implementation of the ban on certain materials by 2019.
- In the filing, SWANA outlined the potential impact the ban could have on the recycling industries in the United States and Canada. According to SWANA, it would not be feasible for municipalities across the country to construct new recycling facilities or expand existing facilities in time before the ban takes effect. The high volume of recyclables that would have to be landfilled or incinerated, since they could not be exported to China, would "greatly diminish public confidence, participation and support of local recycling programs" in the U.S. and Canada and "throughout the world," according to SWANA.
- SWANA said it would welcome a chance to meet with representatives of China's government to discuss "collaborative efforts" to meet goals of eliminating the dumping of waste materials in China and closing dumpsites around the world. In an emailed statement, SWANA CEO David Biderman said: "We need to work with the Chinese government to develop a practical timeline for the proposed ban, while improving bale quality for material exported to China and other foreign markets."
SWANA joins the ranks of organizations like the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in expressing specific and consequential concerns with China's intended import ban. At the end of the second quarter, CEOs from Waste Management, Republic Services and Waste Connections all mentioned China, though they downplayed concerns that the ban would hurt business in the U.S.
While the CEOs have been assuring shareholders that China's import ban won't be devastating, ISRI and SWANA have laid out big concerns — like ISRI predicting that more commodities, like mixed metals and even iron, steel and aluminum, could face import bans — and illustrated serious consequences. The reality is likely somewhere in the middle. China imports millions of metric tons of paper and plastic each year, so halting the importation of those commodities is certainly going to be disruptive.
However, that disruption doesn't necessarily need to indicate scrap filling up landfills and discouraging consumers from recycling. With China, a giant market for scrap, shutting down, American recycling processing could get a kickstart. Additionally, other countries, like Vietnam and India, have seen a steady increase in the amount of imported scrap material, signaling that other markets could open up to begin to fill the whole China could leave.
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