Recycling industry not really pleased with China's new contaminant cap for RCP imports


The Chinese government has proved good for another surprise in 2017, and it is an unpleasant one for the recovered paper industry. The cap on “carried waste”, the weight fraction of contamination permitted for imports of recovered paper, will stand at 0.5% beginning in March 2018, according to a new import standard notified to the WTO this week.

The new “environmental protection control standard for imported solid wastes as raw materials - waste and scrap of paper or paperboard (GB 16487.4 - 2017)” is to replace the currently binding standard adopted in 2005, which allowed imports with contaminant contents of up to 1.5%. An early consultation draft of the standard released in August had set the upper limit on contamination at only 0.3%, which was widely considered unachievable at a reasonable cost by recyclers processing recovered paper.

While it backs off the 0.3% cap, the new standard will certainly come as a disappointment to recovered paper exporters in Europe and North America. Beginning late last week, a more recent draft of the standard containing a 1% cap was in circulation, as EUWID Recycling and Waste reported.

EUWID market sources confirmed that they, too, were being told that the 1% draft would ultimately be implemented. A 1% cap, although challenging, had been considered good news. In practice, there is little that would distinguish an upper limit of 0.5% from the 0.3% limit that some industry groups had considered tantamount to a complete ban on the import of post-consumer mixed papers.

ISRI and BIR respond to China's new standard proposal

In response to China’s notification to the WTO the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) released the following statement: “China’s proposed ‘carried waste’ thresholds that, like their earlier proposals, are not in line with standards followed globally by the recycling community and our industrial consumers. Although ISRI is heartened that the new proposal moves away from the 0.3% threshold, the new levels are still of great concern. ISRI is reviewing the documents carefully and will submit comments through the WTO and directly to the Chinese Government.” 

Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), the umbrella organisation of the national recycling associations, also reacted to the new contaminant cap proposal by the Chinese government. "While in most cases (paper, ferrous, non-ferrous, plastics) the thresholds are not as low as initially feared (0.3%), the proposed percentages are still far from the figures that the industry considers feasible and acceptable. BIR is nevertheless pleased that the Chinese government has taken into account some of the industry’s concerns [...]," writes BIR.

Official comments on behalf of the industry will be submitted to WTO before 15 December "to ensure that the industry’s concerns are heard and understood," according to BIR.

Stay tuned to EUWID Pulp and Paper for more coverage on recovered paper and China.

EUWID Pulp and Paper keeps busy professionals up-to-date on the latest news from European pulp and paper markets.

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