China's Ministry of Environmental Protection is drafting a policy that could have direct impact on the global market for recycled plastics.
The China Plastics Processing Industry Association's Plastics Recycling Committee – a group that represents recyclers in China – has sent an official response to the ministry summarising two main points in opposition to the new draft regulations on imported plastic waste.
The key point in the official letter, which PRC-CPPIA shared with PRW sister publication Plastics News, said a regulation that lists import of unwashed post-consumer plastics as an illegal activity “lacks rationality”.
From a technical point of view, post-consumer plastics need to go through sorting, washing and grinding, which should take place in the same stage. Imported waste plastics that are prewashed frequently have a mix of materials, which affects the quality.
The letter added that some types of waste plastics are difficult to dry after washing and will retain 25 percent of water, inflating the import cost. Water could also cause quality issues for engineering plastics such as nylon.
“If [the government] bans the import of unwashed plastics, it in fact will hurt the operation of many waste importers and recyclers with the exception of PET bottle flakes,” the letter said.
Second, the letter argues that it is unreasonable to require recyclers to granulate materials before they are sold. The purpose of granulation is to facilitate uniform feeding of the materials. If regrind meets the feeding standards, it is wasteful to go through an additional procedure of granulation.
For example, the group said, clean PET flake is used to make polyester fibre, without having to be granulated first.
“We believe the current regulatory and control measures of waste plastics import are very strict. The double-check mechanism of offshore inspection and arrival inspection at the customs effectively prevents the import of banned materials and pollution. Most importers and recyclers are law-abiding operations. [If the government] elevates the control measures simply because of individual cases of management oversight or malicious behaviour, [it] could limit the normal operation of law-abiding businesses and will not be conducive to the healthy growth of the industry,” the statement concluded.
The ministry's draft policy stipulates the criteria for receiving import licenses and details on facility inspections.
Companies that are eligible to apply for the import and processing of waste plastics include:
• Polyester fibre manufacturers.
• Processors of plastics products and other manufacturers that use waste plastics in the raw materials.
• Companies that make granulated materials from waste plastics.
• Companies that make recycled PET flake with existing annual capacity of no less than 30,000 metric tons can apply to import recycled PET grinds and industrial scrap.
Ineligible companies include firms that make ultrathin shipping bags, food-contact products, medical products and construction supplies (with the exception of decorative products).