China to eliminate solid waste imports

China has announced plans to completely eliminate solid waste imports by 2020, according to a recent Reuters report.

Starting in July, China will no longer accept imports of scrap steel, copper or aluminium, with the veto extended to scrap stainless steel and titanium by the end of 2019.

Director of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s solid waste division Qiu Qiwen reportedly said at a briefing that the ban aims to block the import of waste products that can be sourced domestically.

According to Reuters, since the 1980’s China has taken in hundreds of millions of tonnes of foreign paper, plastic, electronic waste and scrap metal for recycling.

Beijing began restricting deliveries last year, with customs authorities launching a series of crackdowns on waste smuggling, leading to hundreds of arrests.

Earlier this year India similarly announced a ban on solid plastic imports, after the country saw a drastic increase in waste imports as a result of the market vacuum generated by China’s National Sword policy.

China faces a solid waste treatment backlog of an estimated 60-70 billion tonnes, placing the country under significant pressure to boost its domestic recycling capacity.

Mr Qiwen said China imported 22.6 million tonnes of solid waste last year— down 47 per cent from the previous year.

“If 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,” Mr Qiwen said.

The announcement follows the January launch of the “waste-free cities” scheme, which aims to boost recycling and encourage the development of alternatives to landfill.

Under the scheme 10 cities will be selected for the first phase, with measures to include better sorting of solid waste, improvements in urban planning and the construction of new treatment facilities.

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ACOR backs Labor’s waste minimisation policy

Labor’s proposed $290 million waste minimisation policy has received support from the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the proposal was a bold boost for recycling and remanufacturing in Australia.

The policy calls for a national ban on single use-plastic bags and microbeads from 2021 and outlines the creation of a National Container Deposit Scheme.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said he will consult with states, territories and industry on how to best implement the proposals.

“This will create a consistent approach across the country – following moves of many state and territories to phase out single-use plastic bags, as well as manufacturers phasing out microbeads,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr Shorten also announced the establishment of a National Waste Commissioner, a $60 million National Recycling Fund and a $15 million investment to assist nearby counties clean up the pacific ocean.

Mr Shmigel said independent modelling commissioned by ACOR shows Labor’s policy has the potential to divert millions of tonnes from landfill to recycling, create 300 new jobs in regional Australia and reduce greenhouse gases.

“The initiative will lift Australia from its 17th position in the world in terms of recycling rates and let us grow the sector from the current 50,000 jobs.”

Mr Shmigel said the policy’s direct investment in infrastructure to decontaminate recycling, building of home-grown markets and expedition of product stewardship schemes were particularly significant.

“It speaks to the 88 per cent of Australians who told a recent survey they want a more pro-active recycling policy,” Mr Shmigel said.

Director of the Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel said the policy doesn’t go far enough however, stressing the need for ‘buy recycled’ tax incentives and mandatory rules for recycled content in products.

‘’An important piece of the puzzle is mandatory rules for recycled content in products. This needs to extend beyond government to the private sector. It’s the only way to cement reprocessing of waste into the economy and save resources and the environment. Anything less is fiddling at the edges.

‘’The introduction of a plastic pollution reduction strategy to set a future direction to reduce single use plastics wasted or littered should have been included,” Mr Angel said.

“The public and many industry sectors recognise that packaging is a significant problem, but the problem includes all single use and disposable plastic waste.’’

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