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China boosts metal scrap imports after policy change - BIR

  • Author
  • Diana Kinch
  • Editor
  • Tom Balcerek
  • Commodity
  • Metals

London — China's Solid Waste & Chemicals Management Centre, part of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People's Republic of China, has published details of its ninth batch of scrap import quotas for 2020, which allows for considerably higher import quantities than in recent months, following a policy change, according to an International Recycling Bureau BIR report July 9.

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This ninth batch allows 176,746 mt of copper scrap, 209,660 mt of aluminum scrap, 4,990 mt of steel scrap and 1,115,426 mt of paper scrap to enter China, BIR reported.

China's new "recycled material" reclassification came into force July 1, allowing scrap metal to be imported as "recycled material" rather than under the more restricted "waste" category. As expected by scrap metals traders, this appears to favor higher imports of some materials and is a liberalization of some import standards. Traders had said in a BIR webinar last month that the new classification was expected to "significantly benefit scrap trading" particularly as concerns import levels of brass, copper and cast aluminum alloys into China.

Announcement of the new batch of import quotas follows reports of shortages of scrap in China and elsewhere, particularly copper scrap, on a demand upturn as industrial activity increases after curbs related to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted. Scrap arisings had been curtailed by lower industrial activity at the height of the pandemic.

A seventh batch of import quotas for 2020, issued on May 18, had for instance allowed for considerably lower scrap metal import tonnages of 10,423 mt of copper scrap and 1,480 mt of aluminum scrap into China, bringing the respective totals for the year to date to 540,184 mt and 478,159 mt at that time.

China started to look at bans on imports of waste in July 2017, as quantities of local arisings increased, and to encourage local scrap processing.

In 2019, it banned imports of lower-grade copper and aluminum scrap and mixed-metal scrap and introduced an import quota and license system for higher grade metal scrap. The move restricted access to exporters from traditional scrap supplying nations including the UK.