The British Metals Recycling Association has urged the government to take action after China announced it will soon stop accepting imports of scrap metal, following similar bans on plastic and paper waste.
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment has announced that over the next 18 months the country will ban imports of 32 solid waste materials – including many types of metal – in order to “reduce environmental pollution”.
The fresh wave of Chinese waste restrictions comes four months after the country stopped accepting plastic and paper imports.
China is a significant market for UK scrap metal traders, who exported 400,000 tons of assorted metals last year.
From December 2018, China will ban imports of 16 types of solid waste including: steel slag, post-industrial plastics, compressed auto pieces, small electric motors and insulated wires, and vessels. By the end of 2019, a further 16 types of waste will be banned, including wood pellets, stainless steel scrap, and nonferrous scrap – excluding aluminum and copper.
Howard Bluck, technical director of the BMRA, said the new restrictions mean a range of scrap items – including old vehicles, refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioner units, as well as mixed metal waste from UK households – will likely no longer go to China.
The BMRA has called on the UK government to negotiate with China on the timeline of the ban.
“It is clear that China will not reverse its position, they appear to be resolute in ensuring their country is not the waste dumping ground for the rest of the world,” Bluck said. “However, we need an opportunity to create a graduated approach to this. It would be helpful if the UK could lobby for a reasonable time frame on the introduction of these new measures.”
In the long term, Bluck said that the new ban may encourage the UK government and consumers to rethink how waste metal is handled, as was the case with the ban on plastic imports.
The BMRA also called on the UK government to take the new Chinese import restrictions into account when developing its resources and waste strategy, which is due in the second half of this year.