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What Does China’s Crackdown Mean for Legal Scrap Recycling Imports?

e-wasteChina is cracking down on illegal waste imports including e-waste and plastics — and this could cause problems for companies legally sending recyclable materials into the country, Resource Recycling reports.

China’s General Administration of Customs earlier this month launched the one-year campaign to crack down on illegal smuggling of “foreign waste,” including industrial waste, electronic waste, household waste and plastic waste.

It’s part of a larger initiative, called “National Sword 2017,” which aims to curb what the government says is a rise in smuggling of agricultural products, resource products, drugs, guns and other illegal smuggling activities, in addition to scrap and waste. China’s Xinhua news agency reports the government will target “gangs and well-organized operations acting illegally.”

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries says it is sill working to “determine the impact on legitimate imports of scrap.”

As Resource Recycling points out, the new campaign sounds similar to China’s Operation Green Fence, launched in 2013, targeting low-quality bales being imported, as well as a one-month crackdown in 2015 focused on plastics.

National Sword 2017, however, may not have as much of an impact on US exporters as the earlier crackdowns did, according to Steve Wong, executive president of the China Scrap Plastics Association and chairman of plastics recycling company Fukutomi.

“As compared with Operation Green Fence, the market is less (panicked) this time due to the fact that market players are more disciplined than years ago,” Wong told Resource Recycling. “Nevertheless, impacts are anticipated as more customs checks would be exercised, which means time and costs.”

Wong’s company sources large volumes of recovered plastics from the US and 14 other countries.

As Plastics News reports, the policy will likely become the “new normal” for China.

“While plastic recycling can sometimes be one of the industries responsible for pollution the government’s intention is to crackdown on all recycling operations without proper controls and facilities,” Wong said. “This policy will become a ‘new normal’ for China in the future.”

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