Plastic, China attempts to reform its recycling industry

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 New rules in Chinese recycling facilities: no low-cost do-it-yourself solutions, higher safety and quality levels.

Efficient recycling is convenient, even for developing economies that absolutely do not intend to slow down their industrialization process to protect the planet. It is the case of China, where the Minister of Industry and Technology just announced new guidelines “to phase out smaller, less efficient and less sustainable operations” for plastic recycling. In short, the People’s Republic of China now imposed stricter rules, in an attempt to limit low-cost and low-quality recycling.

The new regulations, which went into effect on the 1st of January, state that new PET bottle recycling and plastic scrap operations will need to process at least 30 thousand tons per year. Existing PET and scrap operations will need to reach at least 20 thousand tons per year. Moreover, new extruders will need to process at least 5 thousand tons while existing operations will need to process at least 3 thousand tons. These norms concern not only the quantities of plastic to be processed, but also stricter safety and quality protocols.

Jason Wang, the secretary general of the China Scrap Plastic Association, said these changes are “very good news” for the domestic processing landscape in China. “It makes the domestic recycling system gradually improve – Wang told Plastics Recycling Update – Domestic plastics recycling enterprises will be gradually standardized as well, which the entire industry can play a positive role in promoting”.

According to Scott Horne, counsel for the American Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, these new regulations are tied to an ongoing attempt to formalize the plastic scrap processing industry in China. However, Horne doesn’t expect the changes to have a negative impact on U.S. exports of plastics. “There is really no direct impact on exporters of scrap. It’s an attempt to make sure the plastic recycling industry there develops appropriately”.

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