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China bans low quality mixed recycling

Paper Round statement on plastics

In July 2017 China announced big changes in the quality control placed on the import of waste materials such as plastics, textiles and mixed paper. They have imposed a new contamination limit of 0.5% (from March 2018) as well as a complete ban of 24 wastes including plastics such as PET drinks bottles. This has come about as China has become increasingly concerned with the level of dirty and hazardous wastes received, or what they refer to as ‘foreign garbage’. 


Plastic remains a concern for industry leaders. This is due to the low value of poor quality materials and associated sorting costs. Certain plastics such as PET trays and PVC already have limited markets. China has always been heavily relied upon as a destination for low grade plastics due to relaxed quality control. 


How will this affect the UK? 

In the UK we export around two thirds of all plastic waste to China, equating to 2.7 million tonnes of plastic each year. The main challenge for the UK waste industry will be finding a new market for those poor-quality streams. Without a market there is a risk of stockpiling of rejected waste in the UK, as well as a move down the waste hierarchy towards incineration or landfill. It means we will also need to find safe storage of any rejected materials amidst fears of waste crime or fires. 


For more information please visit this page written by Michael Gove. 


Plastics at Paper Round


Paper Round collects a variety of plastics. Here, we set out our position in the wake of the Chinese ban on certain types of plastics. Providing you with the information you need to understand how the ban affects the plastic we collect from your business. 


1. Drinks bottles, water bottles and milk bottles (PET & HDPE) go to a plastic recycling plant in Dagenham which is 10 minutes down the road from our depot. Both these streams are clean and readily recyclable back into plastic containers, neither of these types of plastic are affected by the ban.


2. Plastic film is affected by the ban. We are going to see more plastic film, in particular coloured film, on the market as recycling firms try to find a replacement for Chinese buyers. Paper Round plastic sacks which contain colour are being reviewed to see if we can move towards a more transparent sack, where possible (in some cases colour-coding is very important and so we will need to retain colour in the sack).


3. Plastic tubs and trays (PTT) are low-grade plastic streams which are directly affected by the ban. Fortunately, as a collector of commercial as opposed to household waste, Paper Round sees a very low volume of this type of plastic coming across our MRF (Materials Recovery Facility).  The main use of these materials in the UK are to make street furniture.

Jessica Parrilla

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