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British trade association opposes stricter contaminant limits for exports to China

23.08.2017 − 

A upper limit of 0.3 per cent contamination for secondary raw materials is "unrealistic", according to the UK's Recycling Association. The trade group, which primarily represents independent British recovered paper merchants, called on the Chinese government to reconsider its plans to dramatically reduce the amount of foreign material permitted in imports of waste for recycling.

The contaminant cap is proposed in a draft revising the environmental control standards for imported solid waste which was put out for consultation by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection earlier this month. The document would apply a uniform maximum allowable contaminant level of 0.3 per cent by weight to a whole series of secondary raw materials including recovered paper, waste plastics and scrap metals.

The Recycling Association maintains that with recovered paper, tape, staples, labels, plastic liners and wrapping alone could well exceed the 0.3 per cent limit, even though they are easily removed by paper mills as part of the recycling process. The trade body considers the 1.5 per cent level currently set in the EN643 standard for old corrugated containers (OCC) to be "the correct balance of giving Chinese mills what they need while also allowing for realistic collection and sorting of materials".

The British recovered paper sector is heavily dependent upon export markets. At present only around 40 per cent of the recovered paper collected in the UK is processed in domestic mills. The majority of the material is shipped abroad.

Want to learn more about planned regulatory changes in China with an impact on secondary raw materials markets? Premium subscribers have instant access to our latest coverage in issue 17 of EUWID Recycling & Waste Management out on 23 August.

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