China ‘steps back’ from banning all scrap imports by 2020
Metal scrap.

China ‘steps back’ from banning all scrap imports by 2020

ISRI’s Adina Renee Adler talks trade opportunities with China.

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Last year, the Chinese government proposed a ban on all solid waste imports by 2020 in its national solid waste management law; however, in the second revision that was recently released, the government has “stepped back” from banning all imports.

In the latest draft, the provision says, “The state shall gradually and basically realize zero import of solid waste.”

In an update on China’s scrap import regulations, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, says the new proposal indicates “Chinese demand for manufacturing inputs, including from recycling, remains strong.”

“It is the ‘gradually and basically’ phrase that gives the suggestion,” says Adina Renee Adler, senior director of international affairs at ISRI. “We know from other policy statements that the Chinese government still intends to pursue a self-sufficiency policy, but this tells us that for certain items, they may need to allow imports past 2020.”

The Chinese government continues to “shrink imports” using import quotas for copper, aluminum, ferrous scrap and recovered paper, ISRI says. In July, the quota list for sold waste restricted imports to just 15 to 30 percent of the volumes that were imported to China in 2018.

“When comparing with the previous year’s import numbers, there certainly is a dramatic decline year over year,” Adler says.

In July, China approved a total of 2.12 million tons, including 124,450 tons of copper scrap (5.7 percent), 306,930 tons of aluminum scrap (15 percent), 5,550 tons of ferrous scrap (0.3 percent) and 1.69 million tons of paper scrap (79 percent). More than 70 percent of total approved imports came in through Guangdong province.  

In addition, the Chinese government is developing a set of standards for recycled raw materials imports. ISRI obtained the drafts for recycled copper and recycled brass, noting imports must by 97 to 99 percent copper content and 90 to 99 percent recoverable.

“We are still digesting the standard and we have some questions about certain technical aspects of the one we have reviewed that we are going to send back to our partner organizations,” Adler says. “They are being created to guide imports of raw materials already recycled, and to the extent that companies are able to invest in production lines that can meet those standards, then there could be a trade opportunity.”