United States asks China to provide scientific basis for recyclate ban

US Congress

The United States Government has asked China what the scientific basis was for its ban on certain scrap materials at the start of this year.

In a communication to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the United States “raised concerns with the lack of clarity and transparency around the implementation of the ban” and that these measures “contradict China’s own pro-circular economy narrative that it is promoting in the WTO as well as internationally”.


The submission added: “China is the world’s largest processor of scrap materials, and these measures hinder China’s aspirations to transition to a more resource-efficient, global, and circular economy by directly affecting recycling networks.

“We understand that certain recyclable scrap materials such as bundled recycled newspaper have been banned, whereas other more processed scrap materials such as pulped paper and smelter ready metals are allowed under ‘recycled raw materials’.

The communications then requests that China answers the following questions:

Can China please explain the scientific basis it used to determine which categories of scrap materials are eligible for importation and which are not?

Will China be developing a written regulation for importation, including what is ‘contaminated’ or ‘clean’ and what materials are allowed for importation? If yes, when?

Will China be notifying the WTO its standards that it has implemented for the importation of recycled materials? If yes, when?

Can China please explain how these policies are consistent with China’s pro-circular economy narrative, given that China appears to include recyclable materials within the scope of ‘solid waste’?

The United States submitted this communication in March to the WTO, but it was restricted for either 60 days, or until China answered the points. It has now been derestricted as the 60 days have passed, but China has not yet responded.

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