China abolishes waste import GB standards, but could metal announcement offer hope to plastics and paper?

China recycling inspections ports that solid waste
Chinese customs officials inspect waste materials

China has announced the abolition of the waste import GB standards that set the criteria for recyclable material exports to the country.

GB 16487.4-2017 (waste paper or cardboard) and GB 16487.12-2017 (waste plastics) are among the 11 waste import GB standards that now have no legal force in China. However, this is largely a housekeeping exercise on the basis that these materials were banned from the end of 2020 anyway, or from the end of 2018 in the case of plastics.


The Chinese Government said that these standards have been abolished “in order to implement the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste” and in accordance with the opinions of the Chinese State Council to strengthen ecological protection and resolutely fight pollution prevention and control.

However, among the standards that were abolished were GB 16487.6-2017 for scrap iron and steel and GB 16487.7-2017 for non-ferrous metal scrap.

In October 2020, China announced that recycled copper, recycled brass and recycled aluminium alloy could be imported if they met the Chinese standards for these materials (GB/T 38471, 38470 and 38472 (all 2019) respectively) that mean they are not considered solid waste. While applying domestically in China, these standards also allowed for these materials to be imported freely if the standard is met.

On 30 December 2020, China announced that iron and steel raw materials could also be imported if they met the recycled steel raw material standards (GB/T 39733-2020).

Despite China abolishing the GB standards for waste metals recently, it is applying the domestic recycled raw material standards to allow for imports that also meet these standards.

China is currently developing the GB/T 39171-2020 standard Technical Specification for Waste Plastic Recycling that is due to be implemented by 1 May 2021.

While there are no details publicly available as yet on what this standard will involve, BIR has noted that new plastic standards are being developed that may allow some imports of mechanically recycled plastics. The development with non-ferrous and ferrous metals could show a way in which China might allow some plastic imports.

For recycled paper and cardboard, no standard exists for these and none has been announced by the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation that oversees these standards.

However, this could provide a route for China to allow for limited imports of recyclable materials that also meets its own domestic standards if the country finds itself with a shortage of raw material for paper mills.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.