China sets 0.5 per cent contaminant limit for recovered paper and plastics

17.11.2017 − 

The Chinese government notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of new contaminant limits for wastes imported as raw materials on 15 November. According to the submitted documents, the new regulations are to go into effect on 1 March 2018. WTO members have until 15 December to comment.

When the initial drafts of the new environmental protection control standards were released for consultation in August, the cap on “carried waste” was set at 0.3 per cent for recovered paper, waste plastic and scrap metals. The tightening of the allowed contamination level for imports triggered a wave of protest from the international recycling market, which is heavily dependent on China as the most important destination market for secondary raw materials.

In the standards now notified to the WTO, the contaminant cap for waste plastic and recovered paper imported as raw materials stands at 0.5 per cent. A recently circulated draft recovered paper standard had contained a much higher cap of 1 per cent, and had been viewed as grounds for optimism that the impact of the final standard might not be as dramatic as had been feared.

The contamination limits for non-ferrous scrap imports stand at 1.0 per cent in the newly notified regulations. The caps for smelt slag, wood, electric motors, wires and cables, metal and appliances, and ferrous scrap are all set at 0.5 per cent in the standards submitted by Chinese authorities. A limit of 0.3 per cent is to be set for scrap metals from auto recycling.

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