EXCLUSIVE: Indications are emerging that the revised standard for the export of materials to China for recycling could be set at 1% allowable levels of contrary material rather than the originally proposed 0.3%.
China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection is expected to publish the new standards shortly – its crackdown on contamination found in waste materials imported into the country, was discussed yesterday (8 November) at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.
Officials representing the American and Japanese governments made statements to a meeting of the Technical Barriers to Trade committee about their concerns regarding the impact of China’s proposals.
Now, it has emerged that at least for waste paper exports to China, there could be a tolerance of 1% for materials such as Tetra Paks, plastic bottles and metal cans, wallpaper and fabric within mixed papers.
The 1% figure comes after a detailed global consultation by the Chinese ministry and discussions with Chinese industry and overseas businesses.
At the same time, however, tighter inspection rules are expected to be linked to the standard with the possibility that if one container is contaminated a whole particular shipment could be turned away.
If confirmed, the 1% level is expected to be welcomed by the waste management industry in the UK.
The proposal from China for tighter restrictions has already seen the sector working hard to improve quality. And, while the 1% level will be tough to achieve for some operators, there is expected to be a welcome for the figure rather than a 0.3% level which was widely seen as almost impossible to achieve.
Only this week waste companies told letsrecycle.com of their work to improve the quality of mixed papers with improvements to MRFs and extra sorting (see letsrecycle.com story). Local authorities are also being urged to “play their part” in getting the quality message home to residents.
While other markets for some tonnages of mixed material have been found, China remains an important market as it usually takes in from the UK about 1.1 million tonnes of mixed paper per annum.
Plastics remains a more challenging area for recyclers because of the low value of poorer quality material and sorting costs. While bottles remain in demand, there is a drive to clean up plastic film for recycling and the market for pots, tubs and trays is seen as poor financially.