The letter was sent to environment minister Thérèse Coffey MP by the Confederation of Paper Industries, Resource Association, the Recycling Association and Environmental Services Association.
In it, the trade associations also request that WRAP and Defra return to “recycling market development”.
The call comes almost a week after Ray Georgeson of the Resource Association appealed to the government to ‘get on a plane to Beijing’ and start negotiations (see letsrecycle.com story).
In July, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (CMEP) launched a consultation on tightening import controls for materials such as waste paper, plastics and scrap metal as part of its work to improve the environment.
The restrictions included a proposed limit on the permitted level of material contamination in a load to just 0.3% of the overall volume for some materials.
These limits have the potential to be “very damaging” for UK recycling businesses, the groups claimed.
The letter continued to explain that the proposed levels of contamination are difficult to achieve without “excessive costs” and go beyond what is needed to guarantee good quality material is received at minimal environmental impact.
In response to these proposals, the letter asked Defra to send a delegation to China to “negotiate at a high level in support of our desire to continue to provide the Chinese economy with secondary materials that they need, on terms that are reasonable and continue to protect the environment as well as being practicable in the UK context”.
“We are willing to support this delegation and stand ready to offer any financial and practical assistance that may be needed,” added the letter.
The letter also appeals to Defra to return to recycling market development and demand-pull measures to “encourage the use of secondary materials in UK manufactured products and open up new market opportunities” and link this to the developing Industrial Strategy.
“Action in this area would send a clear signal to UK recyclers and reprocessors, and to UK local government and would be widely welcomed,” said the letter, adding that the very least, Defra could revive this policy area as part of their forthcoming renewal of waste and resources strategy.