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CPIA updates situation surrounding China banning imports of some recovered materials

CPIA updates situation surrounding China banning imports of some recovered materials

China's recent announcement that it intends to block some grades of recovered paper and plastic materials as scrap resources at the end of 2017 is causing wide-spread interest in the North American recycling industry. 

Reports such as China says it will ban certain recovered material imports (Resource Recovery, posted July 19, 2017) suggest that China's Ministry of Environmental Protection is targeting imported materials of poor quality that contain "dirty wastes or even hazardous materials". The report also indicated the Environment Ministry is cracking down on recycling and scrap processing operations in China by revoking licenses where environmental infractions are occurring. 

Since China is an end market destination for some Canadian mixed plastics, polyethylene and polystyrene, this ban potentially may affect markets for some recovered plastics materials in the coming months. A 2015 Moore Recycling Associates Study on Post-Consumer Plastics Recycling in Canada commissioned by CPIAfound 17% - 21% of plastics are exported overseas with China being a destination for these plastics. 

CPIA is already in the process of exploring and documenting market options that may be available on an ad hoc basis to move hard-to-market loads. Similarly, we are collaborating with partner organizations such as the American Chemistry Council, Association of Plastic Recyclers and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in the U.S. to discuss how to build options to Chinese markets. CPIA is also in discussion with Canadian Trade officials and attempting to acquire more details around China's announcement, which currently is not clear about the types, grades, and quality of plastics that might be affected. 

China's announced intention to prohibit various grades of recovered materials may create some end-market issues for Canadian collectors & recyclers in the short-term. However, CPIA and others in the resource recovery industries believe the move may also present opportunities to strengthen existing markets and create new ones in North America that will benefit Canadian and North American recycling in the long-term. CPIA will initiate discussions with like-minded organizations to examine options. 

CPIA's Recommendations
  • It goes without saying that export markets for quality plastic loads that meet and exceed expectations should continue to find markets. That's job one.
  • Continue to ship to accessible export market destinations, as usual, and begin developing domestic supply agreements. However, if issues are encountered, advise CPIA. We will be creating a confidential online tool where information about plastic loads having no export market or are rejected by China can be reported.

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