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Quotas Impacting China’s Copper Scrap Imports

China’s new import quotas on copper scrap will further limit export opportunities for US recyclers. 

Continuing its efforts to protect its environment by keeping foreign rubbish out, China restricted imports of eight additional types of scrap metal, including high-grade copper, as of July 1. Importers must prove that they can comply with the nation’s environmental protection standards to receive a quota. 

As of June 27, China had awarded quotas for 240,000 tons, or about 10 percent of the nation’s copper scrap imports in 2018, according to a Reuters report published in a U.S. News & World Report article on how copper importers seek new metal sources as the scrap crackdown bites. No timeframe was specified for the quotas. But they were likely for the third quarter, the article noted.

The initial quotas, “amounted to a steep cut that would cause ‘huge disruption,’” Reuters reported, citing a scrap executive with operations in China. The article in U.S. News & World Report quoted the executive as saying, “‘It’s created a huge panic and I think if anything it’s going to push (copper) prices up because they are going to be desperate for raw material in China.’” 

The Port of Sanshan stopped accepting scrap metal shipments in late June due to large stockpiles that couldn’t be moved before the July 1 deadline, according to a Recycling Today story about a Reuters report on how the port turned away scrap metal shipments.

In a story on how China was to tighten restrictions on scrap metal imports on July 1, Hellenic Shipping News reported that officials plan to restrict an additional 16 types of solid waste by the end of 2019, including stainless steel scrap.


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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.