China ban on plastic and paper imports raises urgent UK quality questions

The UK recycling sector is in limbo following China’s announcement that it will be seeking a ban on the import of all scrap plastics and unsorted waste paper, a move that some recyclers have said could cause ‘chaos’ in meeting recycling targets and a rise in packaging recovery note (PRN) prices.

Notifying the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of its decision, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said it envisages the action on ‘foreign garbage’ to be in place by the start of 2018, applying to four classes and 24 kinds of solid waste, including ‘plastics waste from living sources, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials’.

Colin Clarke, Managing Director of Mark Lyndon Paper Enterprises, a major exporter of recyclate to China, said: “We should also be clear that China is very serious about protecting its environment and the public health of its citizens. If we do not ensure our exports of paper are of the very highest quality, then we are at risk closing our most important market for recovered paper.”