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Updates on the revised standards for exporting waste to China

24th November 2017

Cherry Whittaker

China's Environment Minister has stressed the country will hold a tough stance on imported waste

Posted: 24 November 2017 

On 22 November, Li Ganje, the Environment Minister for China, spoke in a video conference and stated that a tough stance on enforcement will be maintained on the new regulations controlling the import of waste to be recycled into China.

Mr Li also said that the licenses which permit the import of waste to be recycled are now more strict than ever before, and that an organisation who is non-compliant is unable to apply for importing waste within the year since its non-compliance breach. 

However, there was one, fairly positive point made which could be a slight comfort for those exporting waste for recycling from the UK, when Mr Li said that the government's plans would be progressing at a moderate pace. 

China files new potential waste paper contamination limit of 0.5%

Posted: 17 November 2017

Today, China filed a new document implying that 0.5% could now be the tolerance level next year for contrary materials imported into the country for recycling. Therefore, this is lower than the 1% figure presented earlier in November at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva, and which was more favourable.

If the new standards are adopted, then this would come into force as of 31 December 2017. However, the 0.5% figure has only currently been filed and not confirmed. Therefore, we will continue to look into this topic and communicate any relevant updates, as and when the information is released. 


Tolerance levels for contrary materials may now be at a 1% limit, instead of just 0.3%

Posted: 9 November 2017

On 8 November, at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva, the suppression of contamination found in waste materials imported into China was reviewed.

In July 2017, it was proposed that as of 2018, there would be a 0.3% limit on contrary waste material (eg. plastic bottles within mixed papers) imported into China. As of 8 November, China is now set to increase this figure to 1%.

The potential impact of the original 0.3% limit has understandably caused concerns from countries across the globe, including the UK; as our reliance on export is heavy. Having to compete with large countries such as the USA, who will have extremely high tonnages of waste material, will most likely force the UK and other countries to look at alternative markets for exporting to. 

Other markets have been located for some tonnages of contrary material, however, China still stands as a key market due to that fact that it takes in approximately 1.1 million tonnes of mixed paper every year from the UK. This very much highlights the reason for concerns about the recent proposal.  

In addition, considering the current, poor performance of the Pound relevant to the Dollar and the Euro, shipping costs will be higher and waste rebates will be lower.

These concerns were expressed by Officials representing the American and Japanese governments to the Trade Committee at the meeting on 8 November. 

Following discussions with the Chinese industry and a thorough global consultation, the 1% figure is now a possibility. This is likely to provide a slight relief for the UK waste management industry, however, even if the 1% limit is confirmed, this is far from ideal. The 0.3% limit was seen by the majority as unachievable and the increase to 1% is not huge. 

The 1% limit would relieve the strain on exporters of consolidated, well sorted material such as baled cardboard, but does little to assist exporters of general mixed paper waste.

Despite the increased figure, it is anticipated that there will be tighter inspection rules, in that if just one container is contaminated, then a full shipment may be refused. 

Since China's proposal was publicised, waste companies have already been working to improve the quality of mixed paper waste and also, local authorities are being pushed to contribute by communicating the quality message to householders.

To read about how you can contribute to recycling responsibly, in business and at home, click here