With more and more limitations being placed on the import of foreign waste being accepted into China, the country has seen a 50 percent drop of imports of recycled materials such as scrap metal and paper since the start of the New Year. While the halt in foreign garbage imports is seen as a benefit to China’s environment, it has left many foreign entities (including the United States) struggling to deal with their own recyclables.
Why China is Banning Recyclable Imports
For years, China has welcomed the import of foreign garbage, with more than 47 million tons entering the country legally in 2015 alone. That does not account for the millions of tons that may have been smuggled into the country illegally. In just the first quarter of 2018 alone, government officials report nearly 110,000 tons seized from smugglers.
With trash coming in faster than it could be recycled, China took a bold step in 2013 to tackle the abundance of foreign waste products. Beginning by disbanding thousands of recycling facilities and limiting how much those remaining open could store according to their processing speeds, the country adopted stricter import laws that went fully into effect this year. It now bans 24 types of global garbage from entering its border, with 16 more items being added to the list of restricted items in 2019.
According to Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the scrap ban is a “major measure” being taken by the government to improve environmental protection, calling it an integral part of their “War on Pollution.”
What the World is Saying
Those outside of China, however, see it as just another way to bully other countries and exert its power throughout the world. United States diplomats went as far as to claim that the ban allowed China to “seemingly violate its WTO obligations.” China shot back claiming that the United States is hypocritical and that it should work to fix its own waste management problems instead of shipping their excess garbage overseas for someone else to worry about.
While the United States understands what China is trying to accomplish by limiting the import of scrap metals and paper into their country, it is, according to a report released by the World Trade Organization, creating a dangerous ripple effect throughout the globe. One U.S. source says that China’s scrap metal ban is “having the exact opposite effect of what was intended,” despite the country’s Foreign Minster’s insistence that it is being done solely to “protect the ecosystem and the environment, and protect human health and safety, and the protection of animal and plant life or health.”
Meanwhile, the United States insists that the ban (which was announced in 2013) was implemented too quickly and without regard to the effects on other countries, saying that China’s ban has created an influx of garbage throughout the globe, which is causing severe stress on the environment outside of China.
China Shoots Back
Despite claims made by the United States, a report issued by the World Trade Organization clearly states that “China said its efforts to regulate imports of solid waste go hand in hand with efforts to promote improvements in domestic solid waste treatment and disposal, and that it would ensure a smooth transition and fulfillment of transparency obligations under WTO rules.”
As the war of words continues between the United States and China about the scrap restrictions, businesses and organizations are left facing a real struggle when it comes to finding new ways to process and dispose of the kinds of materials that were once sent overseas.
To learn more on the effects the ban may have on your business, contact, Central Kentucky Fiber Resources, LLC, a leader in bringing advanced recovered-paper processing and national recyclable marketing opportunities to central Kentucky and surrounding areas.