China’s sudden halt on imports brings waste management back to reality
The latest restrictions on imports of plastic waste to China have been creating turmoil on the plastic waste markets. For many years, Europe’s waste management systems have been actively supporting and assisting the treatment of low quality plastics waste in China.
Ton Emans, PRE’s President, said: The market is oversupplied with low qualities of plastics waste due to China’s restrictions on imports. These low qualities used to be exported as a cheap end-of-life solution for badly collected and sorted waste, he added: This unfair practice, in terms of economic, social and environmental implications, is at the edge of the legal requirements imposed by the Waste Directives. As a matter of fact, exporters should have demonstrated that the exported waste is treated according to the EU standards.
Today, this surplus is unable to be totally absorbed in EU as it does not meet the quality requirements of the European recyclers. This abrupt change in the market conditions demonstrates the urgency needed to implement a real and sustainable waste market in Europe. This can only be done by driving the quality upwards by changes in design for recycling, collection and sorting.
Lack of vision of the value chain over the last few years has now resulted in the EU being unable to treat these new increased quantities overnight. Nevertheless, industry, policy makers and society must now urgently bring a common solution to the table to allow immediate implementation of enhanced design for recycling, harmonised collection and investment in highly efficient sorting centres in order to increase the EU’s recycling capacity.