The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) is concerned that revenue losses in the billions of dollars and thousands of job losses could come in the wake of China's plans to ban imports of specific waste materials. The Chinese government notified the its plans to end the imports of certain waste plastics, unsorted waste paper, some textile wastes and certain metallic slags and residues to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 18 July.
“Whilst BIR and its Members support and promote high quality standards for scrap exports, this ban, if implemented, will have a serious impact on the global recycling industry," said BIR's Director General Arnaud Brunet. He also noted that the international trade in scrap materials had supported China's economic growth over the last quarter century and had provided the secondary raw materials needed by Chinese companies for production.
According to BIR, the value of secondary raw materials shipments to China runs into the tens of billions of US dollars. Last year, China imported 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics worth billions of dollars primarily from Europe, the US and Japan. These were also the most important sources of waste paper imports to China.
Last year, China's total waste paper imports stood at 27 million tonnes, of which 20 to 30 per cent consisted of mixed paper, according to BIR. "A ban may result in a large amount of that mixed paper scrap ending up outside of the circular economy stream," said the recycling umbrella organisation.
BIR eager to engage with the Chinese Government
The trade group said it will now engage with stakeholders and the Chinese government to explain the "devastating impact" that the proposed ban would have on both the global recycling industry as well as for the Chinese and global economies.
BIR is headquartered in Brussels and represents around 800 members. Besides individual companies, they include 36 national recycling organisations.