China will still allow imports of some grades of post-industrial plastic scrap next year, even as it moves ahead with a larger ban on imported waste that's shaking up the recycling industry.
Five Chinese government agencies jointly released a policy statement Aug. 16 that "production scraps, off-cuts and regrinds" in five categories of plastic waste can still be imported, according to Steve Wong, a senior official at the Beijing-based China Scrap Plastics Association.
The Aug. 16 announcement detailed other types of waste that would also still be allowed, including some steel and non-ferrous scrap, according to news reports.
China on July 18 told the World Trade Organization it was banning many types of imported waste by the end of the year, in a bid to clean up its environment. Industry has been waiting for further details.
Even with the latest announcement, implementation remains unclear, said Wong, who is executive president of CSPA, a member of the plastics committee of the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling and chairman of Hong Kong-based plastics recycler Fukutomi Co. Ltd.
"The biggest problem I would see is implementation," Wong said. "Different customs ports have different ways of interpretation."
The announcement suggests that post-consumer waste will still be banned. Wong said it is not clear how the government will define post-consumer and post-industrial waste.
China's Aug. 16 announcement covers post-industrial grades of polyethylene, polystyrene, PVC and two grades of material "not elsewhere classified" under harmonized system tariff codes.
Kathy Xuan, the CEO of Romeoville, Ill.-based plastics recycler Parc Corp., which also has a facility in China, said the majority of plastic waste still comes from post-consumer sources, meaning the announcement "can be consider[ed] positive news, but not much."
"We do not have any expectation, but take whatever the government offered," she said.
Xuan sits on a Chinese government committee developing new standards for post-industrial scrap imports, she said.
Industry sources expect a lot of recycling factories in China to lose their import licenses, under the stepped-up inspection regime the industry has been facing since July 1. Xuan said Parc's factory in Qingdao province has passed the inspection program.
The Chinese announcement came jointly from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce, Development and Reform Commission, General Administration of Customs and AQSIQ.