Taiwan closes the door on plastic and bans mixed paper

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Taiwan waste paper restriction
Taiwan Environmental Protection Department deputy director Zhang Zijing shows the types of waste paper that are permitted and not permitted for import

Taiwan, the last Asian market for recovered plastic, has put the world on notice that it’s about to close its doors.

A report by the Taipei Times printed earlier today claims that Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has proposed new regulations to curb imports of waste plastic and paper.

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These new measures will be put in place as a direct result of imports increasing since the China ban was implemented in January, the paper said.

When taking all of the other restrictions across Asia into account, this effectively means that the Asian market is now closed to all recovered plastic and some papers.

At a news conference to announce the measures, EPA Department of Waste Management director, General Lai Ying-ying said the amount of imported waste plastics over the first six months of 2018 was about 2.5 times more than in the same period last year.

The amount of imported waste paper, although not greatly increased, had exceeded 150,000 tonnes in March.

Under current regulations, domestic firms do not need to apply for government approval to import waste plastics and paper. However, this year the EPA said the quality of material imported had fallen and prices for domestic recycled waste had plunged.

To protect the nation’s economy and environment, the EPA has proposed amendments to the Regulations Governing Business Wastes Used as Industrial Materials. This will restrict imports and regulate importers.

The proposals will mean local firms can only import:

  • waste plastics that are scrap or defective materials from the manufacturing process and not medical waste
  • waste paper that is non-bleached kraft paper, corrugated paper or cardboard.

Effectively, this means that most plastics are banned from entering Taiwan, while only OCC will be allowed in paper grades.

Furthermore, the proposals state that:

  • nothing should be mixed with other wastes
  • only firms that have a license are allowed to import waste for industrial use
  • firms should buy domestic wastes ahead of imported materials
  • ensure that imported materials are of an acceptable quality.

The Taipei Times reported that the announcement is subject to a 60-day notification period but if approved could come into effect in October.

China last year banned all plastic imports and is aiming for a complete ban on solid waste imports within the next two years. Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand have all introduced their own regulations to either permanently or temporarily ban imports of certain materials, but especially plastic and mixed paper. Indonesia has also introduced 100% inspections on recycled paper. Exports to Indonesia of plastics were already subject to tough import regulations.

This means that Asia is now effectively closed for plastic exporters unless Malaysia and Thailand re-open in the next few months.

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