China to stop taking many types of recycling material by year’s end

15th August 2017 | Recycling

China has confirmed it is to stop taking many types of recycling material by the end of the year, posing a major difficulty for Ireland and other EU countries. The Chinese Government recently notified the World Trade Organisation it intends to ban the import of “all scrap plastics and unsorted paper” by the end of the year. It is a response to the scale of recyclable waste that is often dirty, poorly sorted or contaminated.

Earlier this year, Irish containers of paper en route to China were intercepted in the Netherlands and found to be contaminated. The entire shipment was returned to Ireland, with estimated costs in terms of shipping, lost revenue, landfill charges and taxes in excess of €1 million.

The latest move will hit Europe’s recycling industry very hard – 87 per cent of its plastic waste ends up in China. And the abrupt ending of contracts has caused alarm, especially in the UK where in recent days representatives of the waste recycling and paper industries described the move as “draconian”, and asked the British government to intervene with Chinese authorities.

The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), which represents major recyclers and exporters of waste, acknowledged the changed market scenario, but insisted it was anticipated. It said Irish waste processors had moved to upgrade their facilities to ensure better quality “recyclates” and diversify their export markets. It was confident of retaining much of its business in China.

However, IWMA director Des Crinion, said it posed a particular difficulty for recycling bin waste, which was often contaminated or considered lower grade. He manages Irish Packaging Recycling (IPR), part of Panda Waste, which exports large quantities of recyclables to China. It operates the Dublin City Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), as well as commercial waste recycling facility in Ballymount, Dublin.

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