UK trade associations ask for help over China import ban

Four government ministers in the UK have received a joint letter from The Recycling Association and Confederation of Paper Industries requesting high level diplomacy regarding the Chinese ban on the import of recyclable materials.

The Chinese government recently notified the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that it intends to ban the import of all scrap plastics and unsorted paper by the end of 2017, but the trade associations feel that the deadline for comments was too short.

They point out that the Chinese government sent the notification on 18 July, 2017 but only invited comments until the 20 July. Normally 60 days is the standard. As a result, the trade associations have requested that the UK government makes representation to its Chinese counterparts to extend the deadline to give industry an opportunity to work with them on improving quality.

They state that the UK recycling industry has already responded with initiatives to improve material quality but they require a supply chain response including manufacturers, retailers, local authorities, recyclers, waste management companies, and shipping lines, to ensure Chinese import standards are met.

The organisations claim that the move also goes against the grain of free and international trade and that the Chinese government, as part of the circular economy, must also take some responsibility for the materials it places on the market in the form of manufactured goods.

The letter also requests that the UK engages in agreeing international standards for the export of high-quality recyclable material as part of the circular economy.

“This action by the Chinese government seems draconian and against the spirit of international trade, especially as many companies, including our members, have worked hard to improve quality,” said Adrian Jackson, president of The Recycling Association. “But for those materials that are still allowed to exported to China, this ban should serve as a warning. Unless the whole supply chain takes responsibility for the recyclability of a product at the end of its life, then key markets such as China will disappear. As a result, we have also asked the government to help us make the entire supply chain aware of the need to improve quality.”