China will import only the highest quality waste and scrap; Notifies WTO on adoption of new contamination standards

Proposes date of adoption as 31 December 2017 and entry into force on 1 March 2018

China has officially notified WTO of its intent to adopt a number of Environmental Protection Control standards for imported solid wastes as raw materials. In its newest filings with WTO on 15 November, the following percentages were communicated as the applicable thresholds for impurities: smelt slag 0.5%, wood 0.5%, paper 0.5%, ferrous 0.5%, non-ferrous 1%, waste electric motors 0.5%, wires and cables 0.5%, metal and appliance scrap 0.5%, vessels 0.05%, plastic 0.5%, autos 0.3%.

srapThe Chinese WTO notifications proposed the date of adoption as 31 December 2017 and the entry into force on 1 March 2018. While in most cases (paper, ferrous, non-ferrous, plastics) the thresholds are not as low as initially feared (0.3%), various international associations feel that the proposed percentages are still too steep and far from the figures that the industry considers feasible and acceptable.

BIR has stated that the organisation, along with ISRI, EuRIC, CMRA, CSPA and CAMU, will submit official comments on behalf of the industry to WTO before 15 December 2017, final date for comments to WTO, to ensure that the industry’s concerns are heard and understood.

In the meantime a small, albeit important, step forward had been achieved at WTO level, says BIR. In the framework of their three-yearly review of technical barriers to trade, 61 specific trade concerns were recently discussed, one being the Chinese import rules for solid waste. Some of the elements that were questioned by WTO members, namely EU, Japan, USA, Australia and Canada, were the broad scope of the measures, whether they applied to domestic operators in the same way as foreign operators, and the six month transition period. With regards to the latter, WTO has now officially asked China to grant a longer transition period of up to five years, a request that BIR says is necessary to give the industry more time to adapt to China’s new framework conditions.