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China bans all imports of solid waste from 2021

December 7, 2020

Chinese authorities confirm that China will ban all imports of solid waste from effective 1 January 2021.

China has been moving towards a ban on all imports of solid waste, and this now comes into effect from 1st January 2021. The ban is an attempt to tackle the soaring volumes of domestic waste and will no longer accept and approve import applications for solid waste from 2021.

For the last forty years, China has been the final destination of millions of tonnes of e-waste, plastic, paper, and scrap metal which is often recycled in poor conditions. We all remember the stories from Guiyu in China.

Credit: Basal Action Network

Pictures like these resonated around the world and China has been taking action ever since and Guiyu today is unrecognisable.

At the time of Guiyu, China introduced import licenses that affected many Chinese importers of used toner and inkjet cartridges, and many companies could not secure the import license or put in place the correct handling of the imported toner and inkjet cartridges and those companies closed.

Today the import license system is still in effect, and the importing of toner and inkjet cartridges is still going on despite the ban on solid waste. Why?  Simply put, used toner and inkjet cartridges are not considered solid waste. They are merely empty units to be repossessed and exported back to the market of origin.

Qiu Qiwen, Director of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s solid waste division, explained in an interview in 2019 that high-quality material would not be forbidden: “If the solid waste […] meets the requirements of China’s import standards and doesn’t contain any hazards, then it can be treated as common commodities, not waste.”

For cartridge collectors exporting to China, how do you present toner and inkjet cartridges to comply with the requirements of China’s import standards? That’s the challenge for the industry.

We have shipped three containers to China this week one collector told The Recycler. When asked how they did it, they commented “it is all in the detail, if the paperwork is 100% correct and when Chinese Customs open the container and see that it is clean tidy and the paperwork matches the inventory, the container normally passes through. If on the other hand, they open the container as see black bags or cartridges, they will rightly assume its garbage and send the container back.”

Ahead of the 1st January change The Recycler is aware of several China-based companies taking a precautionary approach to the changes and pausing imports until the changes have come into effect.

Editorial Opinion: It is likely that the pause in imports could last until after the Chinese New Year to allow the changes to come into effect and at the same time, run down some of the surplus inventory that has built up during 2020.

Categories : World Focus

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