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China eases scrap ban

China’s recent announcement that it will not be as strict in banning scrap materials as it once indicated has not resolved the recycling industry’s concerns.

Officials still worry that the tightening of scrap supplies to China could affect the industry worldwide.

China’s move to ban or reduce its paper and plastic imports in the upcoming years remains a major concern among scrapyard and recycling centers because the country has long been a primary consumer of  such supplies.

Citing environmental concerns, China announced in August that it would not accept certain materials if they exceeded a proposed 0.3% threshold for contamination. This was a large change given that the limit was previously 1.5%. Furthermore, industry experts  viewed the proposed target as  impossible to achieve.

Though China still plans to reduce the amount of harmful waste that enters the country and to tighten the laws around scrap imports, it has indicated that it would raise the proposed threshold from 0.3% to as much as 1%, according to a mid-November response to China’s proposed contaminants threshold from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

As of Nov. 16, the following standards would apply to shipments arriving in China on or after March 1, 2018, according to ISRI.

  • Smelt Slag                    0.5%

  • Wood                            0.5%

  • Paper                            0.5%

  • Ferrous                         0.5%

  • Nonferrous                    1.0%

  • Electric Motors              0.5%

  • Wires and Cables               0.5%

  • Metal and Appliances    0.5%

  • Vessels                            0.05%

  • Plastic                              0.5%

  • Autos                               0.3%

Though the higher thresholds were good news for the industry, officials remain frustrated over the large decrease in prices that resulted from China's original plan.

“China’s proposed ‘carried waste’ thresholds that, like their earlier proposals, are not in line with standards followed globally by the recycling community and our industrial consumers,” ISRI President Robin Wiener said.

“Although ISRI is heartened that the new proposal moves away from the 0.3% threshold, the new levels are still of great concern. ISRI is reviewing the documents carefully and will submit comments through the WTO and directly to the Chinese Government.”

The industry standard for contamination of paper entering China has been 1% to 5% depending on the grade. This standard was created through the collective efforts of the recycling community as well as a reflection of manufacturing standards. Officials say that China should adhere to these standards and not enact such a strict stance on the 1%.

Looking ahead, industry leaders will focus on how China enforces its new rules. Currently, there are containers that arrive in China that do not meet the current standards and will definitely not meet the future ones.

China is phasing out its small paper mills and putting more effort towards large ones as well, Recyling Today reported in an article about the country dialing back contamination restrictions.  It has announced that Chinese mills with capacities less than 300,000 metric tons per year will not be issued import permits next year. Also, only companies that process scrap will be allowed to receive a permit, which eliminates any type of broker or middleman.


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We started 20 years ago as Web4Minds, a software development firm that provides custom solutions to meet our clients’ needs. One such client came to us four years ago to develop software to manage their scrapyards.

Upon receiving feedback from the client and working with dozens of others, we realized that we had created a product that stood out among the competition, so we brought our solution to the marketplace as Scrapyard Pro. It is now used at recycling centers across the country, by clients ranging from single-location owners to regional operators.