Image: M. Huniewicz, CC
Susan Cornish Associate, Moore & Associates
Susan Cornish, Associate, Moore & Associates

• “Imported Waste Management Catalog” (2017)

• “Directory of Prohibited Solid Waste” • “Provisions of the ‘Administration of Environmental Protection’ of Restricted Imports of Solid Waste as Raw Materials”

• “Provisions of the ‘Administration of Environmental Protection’ of Restricted Imports of Imported Waste Paper”

• Updated “Environmental Protection Control Standard for Imported Solid Wastes as Raw Materials – Waste and Scrap Paper or Paperboard” (2017).

China waste paper total import

The main objectives of China’s policy reforms have been to tackle overcapacity
in the paper industry and reduce environmental pollution within China. Prohibiting the entry of foreign ‘waste’ into China has been accompanied by reform of the structures and processes for solid waste importation. The goal is to greatly reduce the types and quantities of imports and gradually replace imports with domestic substitutes by the end of 2019.

Major changes based on the new regulations include:

• A ban on imports of Mixed Paper;
• Much reduced tolerance for prohibitives in all RCP grades;
• Exporters must now have a minimum of 50,000 tonnes of paper production capacity in order to be eligible for Import Permits; and therefore
• Brokers are no longer eligible to export to China.

China continues to develop new policy frameworks to tackle pollution and improve environmental protection, and is restructuring its ministries in anticipation of future impacts on the recycling and paper industries. In June 2018, China’s State Council announced a new goal of zero ‘solid waste’ imports by year 2020. Worthy of note is that the exact definition of ‘solid waste’ in these new regulations is not yet clear. It is too soon to say the extent to which any grades of RCP will remain acceptable for importation.

The Chinese government has desired to phase out the lowest-quality RCP grades because of high levels of contamination
and to monitor the scale of imports much more closely. In the past, paper companies obtained annual quota volumes for imports in the first few months of each the year. With the new regulation, paper companies must apply for quotas on a quarterly basis which increase the time required for the process for both companies and government import managers. The reduced number of RCP Import Permits that has resulted has effectively limited the volume of imports.

In October 2018, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced a new organisational structure that includes a new Department of Solid Waste & Chemicals. The Inspection and Quarantine Unit that usually oversees import inspections will now be part of China Customs. The new government units and consolidations will take some time to put in place so further change will not be immediate. For example, the leader and team members for a new group focusing on ‘waste identification’, or distinguishing waste from renewable resources, has not yet been assigned. Companies and associations are continuing to communicate with the Government at all levels, especially the new departments and leaders who are in place, in order to stay informed of future policy changes in a timely way.