Washington — The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries is warning that another aspect of China's crackdown on imports of materials for recycling amounts to a defacto ban on such trade.
China's Ministry of Environmental Protection is proposing reducing the threshold for contaminants in bales of material for recycling to 0.3 percent, but Washington-based ISRI is calling that an impossible standard.
"The application of this [0.3 percent] standard will effectively result in a ban on the importation of all these commodities," said Robin Wiener, ISRI president, in an Aug. 25 letter to China's MEP. "It is simply not possible to achieve such a control level, nor is it possible to even measure it with such accuracy."
MEP's proposed changes in its technical standards come as part of China's broader crackdown on imports, including dramatically stepped-up inspections and enforcement at ports and in Chinese recycling factories.
China has announced plans to ban significant amounts of imported plastic scrap by year-end, but ISRI's response suggests the MEP's rule on its own could have a very large impact, independent of broader actions.
ISRI said most loads of plastic and paper exported for recycling have between 1 and 5 percent of so-called "carried waste," and it said that level has been derived from open deliberations within the recycling industry and end users of the material in processing and manufacturing factories.
The group said that 1 to 5 percent level is contained in its Scrap Specifications Circular, which it said has been in use for 80 years.
"These numbers were determined through an open and deliberative process within the global recycling community, and reflect manufacturing standards and needs," ISRI said.
ISRI also raised questions about other parts of MEP's proposed changes to its technical standards, including raising the threshold needed for metal scrap in electrical appliances. It also requested more time to analyze MEP's proposed new standards for allowable radiation levels.