NIAD Member


China’s recent ban on paper, plastics, and other items had stated a contamination threshold of just 0.3 percent. As most recycling industry executives would agree – this is not realistically obtainable. It looks like China has come to the same conclusion.

Think about it – if you produce a 1,500 lb. bale of cardboard for recycling, and ship this bale to a consumer in China, it was required to meet a contamination level of 0.3 percent – or a total of only 4.5 lbs.

To make this clear, “contamination” is considered any material other than the described grade – which in this case is cardboard. So, tape, staples, chipboard or boxboard, other types of paper, plastics, wood, glass, etc. must not exceed 4.5 lbs in each 1,500 lb. bale. This is totally unrealistic and would result in virtually any load of material being subject to rejection.

By adjusting this contamination figure to 1%, each bale would be acceptable with up to 15 lbs of contamination. This continues to be a very strict contamination requirement – and will be a challenge for any high volume recycling facility to meet. This will prove especially troubling for large single stream processing facilities, as cost-effectively sorting to meet this spec while obtaining a high processing rate will be difficult.

 What is the answer to meeting these strict new guidelines?

Obviously, each and every recycling facility will have to add additional personnel to increase sorting and create cleaner grades. Loads subject to rejection can be very costly and could impact the import license of any organization attempting to pass off “subpar” material.

The question being asked by many recyclers is how long will this strict inspection process last.  Is China committed to adding the necessary port personnel to closely inspect every load now and long-term, or will these standards ease over time?

Many people are asking what the reasoning is behind these changes – as for years this material and the “levels” of contamination had not posed a problem.

China has also held off on relicensing many of its independently owned consuming mills – which has created the backlog of inventory many recycling facilities are now encountering. Is there a reason this is being done? Several articles mention that these relicensing issues have not impacted government-owned facilities.

As we all know, China’s published information such as GDP, import and export totals, and other financial figures have typically been viewed as questionable for years. Such is the problem when dealing with a communist country.  We may never be told the whole story.