China has recently taken steps to close its waste and scrap market—the world’s largest—to imports, jeopardizing more than $5 billion in exports from the United States, the world’s largest waste and scrap exporter.
On July 18, China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would no longer accept imports of plastic, textiles, unsorted paper, artificial fibers and certain metals. The notification stated China’s restrictions would enter force in September 2017, and all imports of these items would be blocked by the end of the year. On July 27, China’s State Council went further, setting a goal of ending all solid waste and scrap imports by 2019 and replacing them with domestic sources.
China’s steady closure of its waste and scrap market will have a significant effect on waste and scrap trade worldwide. China has long relied on imported scrap metal, paper and plastic as a low-cost source of raw materials for its manufacturing sector. Today, China is the world’s largest importer of waste and scrap, accounting for 22 percent of global waste and scrap imports in 2015 ($24 billion out of $109 billion total imports).
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