8 June 2016 by Will Date

Indian scrap laws cast doubt over plastics export market

Plastics recyclers and exporters have been left ‘in limbo’ due to moves to restrict the import of plastics scrap into India, an international recycling body has claimed.

India is among the single largest destinations for plastics scrap from the UK

India is among the single largest destinations for plastics scrap from the UK

India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a ruling on the import of materials in April, titled the ‘Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules 2016’, updating laws which had last been changed in 2008.

Among the provisions listed within the legislation is a prohibition on the import of solid plastic waste, including commonly collected polymers such as Polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Indian authorities began enforcing the regulations late last month after they were set out in early April.

Export

India is among the single largest destinations for plastics scrap from the UK, taking around 42,000 tonnes of a total 791,000 tonnes exported from the UK in 2015, making it the third largest market for material according to figures published by WRAP in its Plastics Market Situation Report.

Plastics exporters have told letsrecycle.com that despite the wording of the legislation it is not expected to amount to a blanket ban on the import of all PP and PET plastics, and would likely to be enforced through more stringent licensing requirements, particularly around film grades imported into the country.

However, the move has sparked concerns amongst plastics recyclers with the chair of the Plastics Committee of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), Surendra Borad, describing the situation as ‘very sad’.

Speaking at the BIR’s annual Convention in Berlin last week, Mr Borad, who is also the chairman of Gemini Corp in Belgium, said: “This is very sad. We hope that India will reconsider its decision of placing plastics scrap in the hazardous goods category.

Plastics export markets

Figures published in WRAP’s Plastics Market Situation Report (all figures in 000’s tonnes)

“All goods which were loaded before 4 April are being customs cleared. The goods which were loaded after 4 April will be allowed to be unloaded, but the importers cannot process them until further instructions are given.”

China

The comments come at a time of increasing uncertainty over the future demand for plastics scrap from Asian markets, with exporters claiming this spring that potential limits on imports of plastics to China could be at least ‘60% likely’ in the final quarter of 2016 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Any future efforts to clamp down on imports of plastics scrap to China would be likely to have significant implications for UK exporters, with the country a major export destination for UK scrap.

Speaking at the BIR Convention last week, Dr Steve Wong, executive president of the China Scrap Plastics Association and Hong Kong based plastics recycler Fukutomi Company Ltd, said that a ban on plastic imports would be unlikely in the ‘short to medium term’ due to the need for government agreement on such a move.

However, he added that Chinese authorities are targeting factories that are failing to meet environmental standards for closure.

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