China’s plastics ban will cause chaos for global waste industry

28th December 2017 | Recycling

The global waste industry is about to be thrown in to turmoil as China is set to implement its threat to shut its door on almost all categories of plastic and poor-quality cardboard and paper. It is the world’s biggest processor of recyclable materials.

Ireland, which has little capacity to recycle plastic, has been trying to locate newer markets since the possibility emerged earlier this year. UK and US markets are going to be hit badly because of their reliance on China for massive amounts of their waste. In the absence of alternatives, those operating in what is a commodity market face chaos in the short-term, according to UK waste management experts: a view endorsed by the environmental group, Greenpeace International.

Plastics Ban

The European Commission has been trying to get China to hold off on the move – while the international waste industry has to contend with confusion about how exactly the plastics ban will be implemented.

The UK recycling industry has admitted a build-up of waste is inevitable, which may lead to much of the waste going to landfill or incarceration. British companies have shipped more than 2.7 million tons of plastic scrap to China and Hong Kong since 2012.

Simon Ellin of the UK Recycling Association said recent discussions the American Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries had with the Chinese government highlighted concerns the plastics ban and tighter restrictions on imports were being implemented too quickly. “Clearly, as much as we in the UK, US and elsewhere do not have enough time to adapt, this is also the case with the Chinese agencies at the other end. This suggests there could be chaos until everyone is able to adapt or ideally a much longer time period is given for us to prepare.”

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