China's ban on recycled plastics imports, dubbed National Sword, will cut even deeper for reclaimers around the globe.
The world's most populated country is now moving toward a ban of post-industrial plastics following last year's decision to no longer accept post-commercial recycled material.
National Sword is a wide-ranging program aimed at reducing the importation of recycled materials, not just plastics, to that country. China wants to transition to a domestic materials recovery approach that would not only boost the demand for homegrown scrap, but also cut down on the amount of waste that's imported along with recycled material loads.
The move is being framed in environmental terms by the Chinese government.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., a trade group, reacted to the expanded ban April 19 after the news broke. ISRI has its roots in the scrap metal industry, but has become a louder voice in the recycled plastics industry in recent years.
“The import prohibition China announced to go into effect at the end of 2018 will impact more than 557,000 metric tons worth more than $190 million of U.S. plastic exports to China,” ISRI spokesman Mark Carpenter said in an email.
“Although we anticipated more import restrictions would be announced, we remain concerned about the effect these policies have on the global supply chain of environmentally friendly, energy-saving scrap commodities and will instead promote an increase use of virgin materials in China, offsetting the government's intent to protect the environment,” ISRI President Robin Weiner added in a statement.
A translation of the newly added banned materials was provided by ISRI.
They include "industrial waste and scrap of plastics referring to the thermoplastic remnant materials, leftover materials and inferior products produced in the manufacture of plastics and processing of plastic products," according to the translation.
Materials covered by the ban include "waste and scrap ethylene polymers and remnants," "waste and scrap vinyl benzene polymers and remnants," "waste and scrap chloroethylene polymers and remnants," "waste and scrap polyethylene terephthalate and remnants," and "other waste and scrap plastics and remnants," according to the translation.
The expansion of National Sword that takes place at the end of this year includes a total of 16 materials, followed by another 16 materials effective at the end of 2019.
All of the additional plastic related prohibitions kick in at the end of this year, but materials including metals, wood waste and pellets and cork waste also are included in the latest rule changes over the next two years.
Plastic recyclers in the United States, depending on their views, see the China ban as both a challenge and an opportunity to expand domestic handling of the material.
There also is a general feeling that companies that once processed the material in China could find opportunities to create facilities in the United States. Recyclers also see opportunities in other countries in Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, that are willing to step in to the processing vacuum that China created by its disinterest.