China's Imports of Solid Waste Continue to Decline

China’s imports of solid waste have continued to decline with imports of plastic, paper and metal waste amounting to 4.74 million tons, down 33.1% from Jan to April in 2018, follows a decline of nearly 50% in 2018. China has set a target of zero solid waste imports by 2020.

China began importing solid waste as a source of raw materials in the 1980s and has been the world’s largest importer. Last year, the government announced a ban on 32 types of solid waste, including plastics and paper, and has imposed tough quality restrictions on other recyclable materials. In December, China announced it would ban imports of more varieties of scrap steel, copper and aluminium starting from July. According to Reuters, the country has a solid waste treatment backlog of around 60-70 billion tons.

Over the coming decade, over 110 million tons of plastic is estimated to require alternative treatment as a result of China’s ban.