The Chinese government is apparently edging closer to ending a ban on direct imports of whole PET scrap bottles as per PlasticsNews. This decision is being watched by the global recycling industry as increased recycled PET exports to China could result in potentially less available elsewhere.
Plans are underway to draft detailed regulations ending the ban and allowing direct imports of at least some whole scrap bottles, under a licensing system. Details remain unclear, and experts cautioned that uneven enforcement of current rules makes it tricky to predict the real world impact of any legal change. China currently buys more than half the PET bottles collected in the US.
Currently waste PET bottles must be shredded or flaked to be allowed into China legally, and removing that requirement could make it cheaper for China to bring in bottles and increase imports, or mean that the US PET recyclers could have to pay more for material, said Patricia Moore, executive director of the Plastic Recycling of California. “The concern in the US is that if they can do this [import whole bottles], it will take costs out of the system so the Chinese can pay more,” she said. It could also further tighten supplies in the United States at a time when Coca Cola and other big companies are investing in PET recycling capacity in North America.
But there are other complications that could make it tough to gauge the real world impact. Some whole scrap bottles do get imported to China now, in violation of current regulations. They often initially enter through the port of Hong Kong, where they are legal to import, and then are divided into smaller loads and brought into mainland China through the country’s somewhat porous port system. This is a point the Chinese authorities seemed to acknowledge, when they said at the conference that they were going to crack down on waste plastic coming into ports in Guangdong province, neighbouring Hong Kong. Ports there that don’t have proper conditions for inspecting waste plastic will not be allowed to import the materials, an official with China’s General Administration of Customs told the conference, which is organized by Plastics Recycling Committee of the China Plastics Processing Industry Association.