China has confirmed it will no longer accept imports of solid waste as of next year in a bid to improve its environmental footprint.
The country's Ministry of Ecology and Environment said it will "no longer accept and approve import applications for solid waste" from 2021, which the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) said is in line with an international effort to reduce transport of foreign waste.
A new law is to come into force on September 1st 2020 that will clarify the attributes of imported goods affected from a legal perspective.
China has long been a destination for scrap metal, recycled paper and - until last year - waste plastic, but it committed to a raft of new anti-pollution efforts and the goal of no longer accepting solid waste by the end of this year.
In 2018, China brought in bans on 24 types of solid waste and put a 0.5 per cent contamination limit on other waste imports, which had a significant impact on where the rest of the world began to send its plastics in particular.
These measures have been taking effect, with spokesperson for the Ministry of Ecology and Environment Liu Youbin recently reporting that solid waste imports for the first four months of this year were down 47.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
Although the final version of this new legislation has not yet been published, it is already known that at least two metal grades will be classed as products and will therefore be allowed in. Ferrous scrap, for example, will remain unaffected.
Meanwhile, the BIR said it had been told China's waste import quotas for 2020 will be 176,746 tonnes of copper scrap, 209,660 tonnes of aluminium scrap, 4,990 tonnes of steel scrap and 1,115,426 tonnes of paper scrap.
Since the start of 2018, when China began to clamp down on plastic waste, exports of the material to Malaysia tripled and those to Thailand increased fifty-fold, prompting them to take their own action on import restrictions.