China has added 32 materials, including specific ferrous and non-ferrous metals, to its prohibited waste list.

British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) is concerned to learn that China intends to extend the list of banned solid wastes to include metal scraps, compressed automotive scrap and stainless steel.

Information shared by our colleagues at ISRI, appears to show that by the end of 2018, China will not longer accept ‘steel slag’, post-industrial plastics’, ’compressed auto pieces’, ’small electric motors’ and ‘insulated wires’, and ‘vessels’. Stainless steel scrap and nonferrous scrap, excluding aluminium and copper, will be banned by the end of 2019.

BMRA’s Technical Director, Howard Bluck said: “Since China first announced restrictions on certain solid recyclates that exceed impurity thresholds, we have been concerned about the lack of clarity over the meaning of ‘impurity’ and, in turn whether those thresholds can be met. The most recent extension of these restriction will concern exporters of recovered metal as it now names specific materials and metals, as well as including a host of non-ferrous metals. If the information is correct, of most concern are the bans on metal and electrical appliance scrap, including cable and wires, and stainless steel.”

China is a significant market for UK recyclers with around 400,000 tonnes of different metals worth over £200 million being sent to China in 2017. Nevertheless, it is hard to see which materials will still be heading to China by the end of 2019. In fact, with the shipping companies already nervous about taking materials to China, the situation could worsen even more rapidly.

“BMRA is seeking further information and clarity while sharing our concerns with the other members of the EA China waste restrictions liaison group and more widely with Government.”

It is now more important than ever for the Government to take the global changes regarding waste and recycling into account when developing its Resources and Waste Strategy. By including pull mechanisms and promoting sustainability through green procurement, Government could really show it support for, and help build, a robust recycling industry in the UK.