China’s Recycling Import Ban: Uncertain Times for Solid Waste Agencies

In July 2017, China notified the World Trade Organization that effective January 2018 it would ban imports of some recycled materials, including mixed paper and most plastics. In March 2018, China went further and implemented a strict new policy limiting contamination levels to 0.5 percent, a near-impossible limit for most single-stream recycling programs. To ensure compliance, Chinese customs have implemented the Blue Sky 2018 program to inspect every container entering any Chinese port and reject and return all containers with more than 0.5 percent contamination. As a result, inspections are meticulous. Some in the recycling industry have opined that China appears to be on a path to eliminate imports of all post-consumer recyclables by 2021.

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