China to Ban Imports of 24 Types of Solid Waste

On 1 August, China registered two filings with the World Trade Organization signaling China’s intent on banning imports of 24 kinds of solid waste, effective 1 September. China imports a huge amount of solid waste, particularly from the United States; according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), China imported $5.6 billion worth of scrap commodities from the United States in 2016. The filings cite “protection of human health or safety” and “protection of the environment” as its reasons for banning the 24 types of solid wastes.

A Chinese worker piles up the plastic bottles collected at a recycling center in Hefei.  Courtesy: Asia Society

A Chinese worker piles up the plastic bottles collected at a recycling center in Hefei.  Courtesy: Asia Society

According to one of the filings, “Large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China's environment seriously. To protect China's environmental interests and people's health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted… By the end of 2017, China will forbid the import of 4 classes, 24 kinds of solid wastes, including plastics waste from living sources, vanadium slag, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials.”

In response to the ban, ISRI president Robin Wiener stated, “If implemented, a ban on scrap imports will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and closure of many recycling businesses throughout the United States… A ban on imports of scrap commodities into China would be catastrophic to the recycling industry.” Read more here.

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