China confirms new contamination level for waste imports

The Chinese Government has notified the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of the new contamination level to be introduced on imported waste materials.

After months of speculation, China says that it will implement a 0.5 per cent contamination level on imported waste materials. The restriction will include paper, cardboard and plastics, but a 1 per cent contamination level will be allowed for non-ferrous metals. China also outlined its plans to reduce the number of waste import licences allowed in 2018.

China announced earlier this year that it will put in place tighter waste import controls from the start of 2018, including a ban on the import of mixed, unsorted paper and certain other materials, and restrict the import of recycled materials by decreasing the maximum contamination level from 1.5 percent to 0.3 per cent. This new level will be adopted on 31 December 2017, coming into force on 1 March 2018.

Whilst China’s confirmed out-throw limit is higher than the originally proposed 0.3 per cent, the Recycling Association has warned that it will be difficult to comply with and will be pushing for the Chinese government to adhere to the WTO’s requested transition period of five years.

Adrian Jackson, president of the Recycling Association, said:

“Every part of the supply chain has to focus on quality first, so that we can continue to send secondary materials to our biggest purchaser. With plastics now banned, apart from a very small amount of post-production material, this should serve as a warning that unless we produce a quality product from other materials, we could risk losing the Chinese market altogether.

Michael Gove criticised for ‘lack of knowledge’ statement

The news follows a recent statement by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, in which he admitted to having no idea how the ban will affect the UK.

Earlier this month, Michael Gove was criticised for admitting to the Environmental Audit Committee that he “didn’t know what impact it will have”, adding: “to be honest, I have no knowledge of the effects that the potential Chinese import ban on plastics and packaging will bring to the UK recycling sector.”

Michael Gove did, however, say that the UK had the capacity to handle the waste meant for China, and that he doesn’t have any worries because the waste industry is “energetic, innovative and ambitious.”

Simon Ellin, Chief Executive of The Recycling Association, said: "It is very disappointing that Michael Gove is not aware of the fundamental impacts that China's ban will bring to the UK's recycling and waste industry."

“As suggested by Labour MP Joan Ryan, we would like to meet and discuss these issues with Mr Gove to make him more aware of the situation.

"However, we are heartened that some politicians have read TRA's Quality First report, and unlike the Secretary of State, that the Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Labour MP Mary Creagh, is taking this issue seriously."

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