China National Sword Policy
In 2018, China implemented strict regulations about the scrap material imported into their country. They no longer will accept a contamination rate of above 0.5% and many materials were outright prohibited from entrance. The targeted materials for ban are many types of plastic, scrap paper, certain metals, and textile materials. Another 16 materials were banned beginning Dec. 31, 2019. See the complete list here.
This positive leap for China working to achieve its national environmental health goals has caused major repercussions for the rest of the world. The ramifications for the US have been particularly impactful as about 40% of the total materials collected for recycling were being sent to China.
While other countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Korea are willing to take some wastes, the amount they can process is not large enough to absorb what China was accepting and have been closing their doors along with other Asian countries, like Malaysia and the Philippines.
The time for the US and other developed countries to look introspectively for solutions has arrived!
How This Is Affecting the Printing Industry
This strain is being felt by printers, too. As recyclers are losing money, because the prices they are receiving for the separated materials have dramatically declined, they are paying less to collect materials and, in some cases, have begun charging to take certain materials or even rejecting materials altogether. The hardest hit waste streams are many non-PET based plastics, mixed wastepaper, and old corrugated containers.
As a result, several states are considering implementing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations that charge a fee on the producer of the product to pay for its recycling or disposal. Printers need to be aware of how the potential impact EPR regulation could affect their customers and the financial role in the consumption-recycling cycle.
What You Can Do
- Understand and monitor your waste. Set and achieve goals to decrease the volume you produce.
- Work with your vendors to reduce waste. Buy bulk by getting one large container of materials over many smaller containers. Avoid packaging that has multiple layers. See if the vendor will take back unused packaging for reuse.
- Reuse as many materials as you can before throwing away or buying new.
- Become part of the second market. Buy recycled materials from other companies or recycling plants before buying new.
- Take responsibility for your products. Make a product with material you know can be recycled downstream.
- Lighten the load for recyclers. Partner with companies to reuse your waste materials instead of sending them straight to the recycling plant or landfill.
- Sort your waste. For the waste you can’t sell, make sure you separate your paper, plastic, glass, metal, etc. This helps to reduce contamination which makes it easier for recycling facilities to make a profit and get back on their feet.
- Do your research. Find out the what materials your recycler takes and sort waste vs. recycling accordingly.
PRINTING United Alliance’s Sustainability Issues and Trends resources provide practical information meant to allow printing operations to manage compliance and stay informed. For more information on China National Sword, or other Sustainability topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-385-3588.