UK official warns of ‘chaos’ ahead of Chinese waste import ban

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Chief executive of the UK’s ‘The Recycling Association’, Simon Ellin has warned that there might be potential chaos following a ban by China on imports of wastes, including plastic waste, as of the New Year.

“Clearly, as much as we in the UK, US and elsewhere do not have enough time to adapt, this is also the case with the Chinese agencies at the other end,” said Ellin in a statement published on the TRA website.

This, suggested the UK official, could cause “chaos” until everyone is able to adapt.

The UK association head said he ideally wanted a “much longer” time period to be given so the country could prepare.

“Until we get to the bottom of some of the areas of uncertainty, The Recycling Association… is reminding its members and the wider recycling sector of the need to keep material exceptionally clean, take more photos than were required previously, and be prepared that even this material can be rejected.

Ellin also said that his organisation was lobbying in the World Trade Organisation consultation for a relaxation of standards or alternatively a delay in implementation.

The WTO consultation ended on 15 Dec 2017.

Ellin also pointed to TRA’s consultation trade bodies around the world, including the US-based ISRI and the European Recycling Industries’ Conference, since the Chinese import ban and restrictions were announced earlier last year.

According to Ellin, ISRI has now revealed that a meeting it had with Chinese officials recently had brought about many areas of further concern over the import ban and new restrictions on allowed imports.

Some of the concerns include lack of time and resources within Chinese agencies, including Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (CMEP) and AQSIQ (Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine), to implement the actions.

Additionally, a source of concern is the Chinese philosophy that "if you need something corrected, you go overboard and later correct", which according to Ellin is “very much in play” here.

Whether or not AQSIQ is prepared, is another concern according to Ellin.

“Likelihood of inspectors understanding what they are inspecting and what they are looking for is very low in order to meet the proposed 0.5% contamination levels for allowed materials,” he pointed out.

Confusion over definitions, as well worries over new waves of “copycat” rules by other countries have also added to Western concerns over the Chinse decision.

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