The Chinese government notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 18 of its intent to restrict the import of 24 types of solid waste by the end of 2017, including multiple types of plastics, textiles, mixed fibers and other material. In the filing, the Chinese government states the need for these restrictions due to “large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes” being mixed into imported materials.
SWANA has been in contact with officials at the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and industry experts in the field, to understand the scope and implications of this WTO filing. Additional details about the ban have not yet been provided by the Chinese government.
It is important to note that these restrictions are meant to address the problem of “solid wastes that are highly polluted.” The need for foreign imports to support Chinese production needs, as well as the high quality of most U.S. and Canadian-based recycled materials, is likely to mean that most paper fiber will continue to be accepted from North America. However, how the Chinese government ultimately defines “unsorted” paper will strongly determine that outcome. The market for lower grade plastics, like No. 3-7, are likely to see the largest initial disruption under the ban, as alternative recycling destinations might not be readily available.
The WTO filing lists an “entry into force” date of September 2017, and states that the ban will be enacted “By the end of 2017.” The exact time frame is still unclear. SWANA will continue working with government officials and industry leaders to ensure our membership remains informed on the effects of this action.