China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) recently announced that it will be holding a year-long action ‘Border-gate sword 2017’ (also known as National Sword 2017) to look at — among other things — foreign waste, including plastics. This campaign will look at processing methods, country of origin and end products to be made from plastic regrinds.
Current avenues for low quality sorted material through export prevents there from being a focus on driving up the quality of the material collected within the UK. This means that UK recyclers have to spend resources sorting material, even if it has already been through a sorting process, before they can reprocess it. This in turn reduces their yield.
Roger Baynham, chairman of the Recycling Group said: “A quality standard for all material going into the plastic recycling stream, whether it is recycled in the UK or exported, would ensure a level playing field and enable UK facilities to compete for material. This would also reduce any effects that an initiative such as ‘Border-gate sword 2017’ might have upon the market. This standard needs to apply for all parts of the plastic recycling industry including packaging, waste electrical and electronic Equipment (WEEE), end-of-life vehicles and construction.”
The GAC announcement also shows the importance of having sustainable markets for plastic recycling within the UK and not relying on export. With a tightening of controls on imports into China and stricter regulation on facilities within the country, the market for UK plastic recycling within China is likely to reduce.
Baynham continued: “A sustainable market for plastic recycling within the UK would ensure this valuable material is available to UK-based manufacturers, which would help contribute towards a local circular economy. It would also help support UK jobs within these industries whilst securing resources for the country. The BPFRG has been calling for Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) reform for years as a tool to ensure there is a level playing field with exports — and views the announcement of GACC as a further motivator for the current PRN system to be reviewed.”
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