The landscape of recycling has significantly changed domestically and abroad over the past year, and SWANA has both monitored and influenced these transformations since China’s initial announcement to ban certain recyclables from import. This Alert serves as an update on several of the latest developments.
On August 8, the Chinese government announced tariffs of 25% on OCC, other recovered fiber materials, and scrap plastics exported from the United States, which will go into effect beginning August 23. A notice about this issue was included at the top of the August 9 I Am SWANA newsletter in order to alert the SWANA membership. SWANA has since been contacted by the U.S. Trade Representative offices regarding the potential impact of this latest development. Waste360 also published a story about these tariffs that includes a quote from David Biderman and mentions the upcoming MRF Summit at WASTECON.
This action by the Chinese government is part of a larger list of tariffs being enacted in an ongoing trade war between China and the United States. The United States previously set new tariffs covering $50 billion worth of goods imported from China, including $16 billion worth that will also go into effect on August 23. As of now, there are no indications of a change in this dispute between the two countries, and is likely only to escalate.
The Chinese government previously announced on July 11 plans to entirely ban the import of solid waste, including recovered paper, by no later than 2020. Despite the major restrictions put in place over the past year, China has remained a top importer of recovered fiber and scrap plastic from the United States and other locations. A complete ban will have a major effect on the movement of materials internationally.
Other recyclable material export destinations in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, have also begun enacting new regulations and more strictly inspecting imports, as they are overwhelmed by the flow of materials. This will further limit their ability to fully absorb the recyclables diverted from China.
As plastics in the solid waste stream have come under increased scrutiny worldwide, particularly in regards to marine litter, the country of Norway has put forth a proposal to the Basel Convention that would redefine how this material is exported. The change would require that countries exporting plastic waste internationally obtain prior informed consent from the importing country in cases where it is not already prohibited. As the U.S. is not a signatory to the Basel Convention, such a change could further limit the country’s export options. This proposal will be considered at the next meeting of the Basel Convention Open-ended Working Group in early September.
SWANA was approached by the U.S. State Department for comments on Norway’s proposal, and David Biderman has been invited to a meeting hosted by the State Department with other industry stakeholders on August 14 to discuss further. An update on that activity will be provided to the Core Advocacy Group as appropriate.
SWANA continues to work with various stakeholders about how to stabilize recycling and make more resilient systems for the future. The Recycling Task Force is working on outreach efforts and collecting data on recycling education spending by municipalities to get a better sense of what type of federal financial support may be necessary. This is an important part of ongoing efforts to ensure that recycling funding is part of the U.S. Infrastructure Bill.
SWANA has met with staff members from the offices of Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill to educate them on this issue, and build a bipartisan coalition in support of such funding. A broad group representing the recycling supply chain is also working together to make this a priority at the national level, and will be meeting in Nashville, Tennessee at WASTECON.
This issue continues to evolve and SWANA remains at the forefront. More than ever it’s vital to remain informed, so I strongly encourage you to attend WASTECON and the inaugural Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) Summit this year in Nashville, Tennessee.
If you have feedback or questions about this alert, contact the Hoosier Chapter.