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Industry Insight: Chinese Recycling Ban Affecting UK Waste Costs

When it comes to your waste management and recycling operations, industry experts at ACM offset waste increases by keeping their ear to the ground and being prepared for industry developments. Our first article in a series of waste industry insights from leading environmental waste management and recycling company, ACM Environmental PLC with Russ Sampson, Principal Environmental Consultant in the North West looks at the reasons behind potential waste cost increases. Chartered Waste Manager Russ Sampson ensures that he is aware of the changes which are made year on year and continuously monitors his clients’ accounts to help prepare for waste industry developments affecting the region.

We asked Russ Sampson CMIWM to shares his industry insights on the situation in China with recyclables and what is classed as waste

Export of Recyclables to China

I closely monitor industry developments including the recyclate export market in China.  For many years China has been the worlds’ largest importer of secondary plastics and cardboard for reprocessing and recycling. However on the 1st September 2017 China closed its doors, and banned imports of low grade waste plastics recyclate, due to ongoing pollution issues. As a response, the global commodity prices for many secondary materials dropped by approximately 35% and a full ban of 24 waste and recycling streams in to China is expected by December 2017.  Whilst some alternative waste management outlets are still available in Europe and Asia, these are quite selective over the materials they are willing to accept and capacity is limited.  Only the higher grades of sorted plastics, paper and cardboard are likely to continue to be accepted by China for recycling. Potentially, they will eliminate rebates altogether as low-grade materials become reclassified as waste.  I work with my clients to ensure that they produce the best grades of recyclate possible to realise rebates at full market potential.

Although China as the main recyclate processing destination has shut its doors, alternative recycling facilities are likely to develop both in the UK and overseas, but may not necessarily be accepting lower grade materials as operating costs are considerably higher than in China.  Here in the UK, commodity rebates for clean high grade materials are likely to remain relatively buoyant whilst rebates for low value materials are likely to disappear altogether as this becomes reclassified as waste materials.

UK businesses and organisations can prepare for industry cost increases being passed on and in most cases precautions are available to minimise potential shocks from turbulent international waste markets. Industrial or business waste will still be able to be dealt with.

If you would like further advice regarding any aspect of strategic waste management, (including business or commercial waste) please do not hesitate to contact Russ directly - r.sampson@acmplc.com or 07903 805180.

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