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China's new regulation shakes up plastic recycling industry


Plastics scrap imports through China’s Guangzhou customs fell by more than 80 percent in the past two months, as the local customs tighten the enforcement of a newly implemented regulation on solid waste import. The nation’s plastics recycling industry are fearful of a radical shakeup, once the government decides to order all customs across the country to strictly comply with the new regulation.
According to statistics from China’s General Administration of Customs, the first and second quarter this year each saw about 520,000 metric tons of scrap plastics enter China through the Guangzhou customs, but the volume dropped drastically to 240,000 tons during the third quarter, down by 35 percent year on year. Imports in October were only 22,000 tons, down by 82 percent year on year.
The Guangzhou Customs is a gateway that handles a large portion of China’s plastics scrap imports. During the first 10 months, it processed a total of 1,303,000 metrics tons of plastics scrap imports, taking up 20 percent of the nation’s total import volume and ranking first among all customs.
Since Aug. 1, Guangzhou Customs has been a designated pilot site to strictly implement China’s new policy on solid waste imports, causing the recent significant drop.
Beijing issued the new regulation earlier this year, aiming to better control waste imports. Along with solid waste of recycling value, a lot of non-recyclable waste also found its way into China, polluting the environment, said a spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection at the 2011 China Replas in Guangzhou.
Being a major importer of plastics scrap, China relies on imports for half of the plastics scrap it recycles. According to data from the customs, China’s annual imports of scrap plastics increased from 2,460,000 tons in 2002 to 7,400,000 tons in 2010, with an average annual growth rate of 26 percent.
According to officials who spoke at the Replas conference, the new regulation is showing major impact on plastics recycling because: a) it prohibits the borrowing, renting or selling of solid waste import licenses; b) it prohibits the reselling of imported waste materials, and the imported waste must be used as raw materials by the company that is listed on the imported license; c) an importer must conduct the clearance through its local customs, not any customs in the country.
Toland Lam, president of the China Plastics Processing Industry Association’s recycling committee and owner of recycler T&T Hi-Tech Development Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen, said the new regulation has restricted his company’s operational flexibility in import clearance and increased the costs of imports. He stressed that the industry supports the government’s objective to better regulate the industry but many recyclers are not prepared well enough.
“The impact is strong and we are facing unprecedented difficulties,” Lam said, adding that 30 to 40 percent plastics recyclers in Guangdong province have shut down because of the new regulation as well as the gloomy global economy and increasing labor costs.


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