China stops waste imports from Europe from 2020 onwards

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With the publication of the so-called National Sword programme, the German and European recycling industry is facing new challenges.

The recently published paper on China’s future raw materials strategy foresees an import ban on all waste by the end of 2020. Scrap is also included as ‘waste’ in the document – which is why the association of German metal traders, VDM, points to the general and broadly diversified relevance for the German economy and SMEs.

However, the programme, with which China intends to raise its raw materials and recycling strategy to new standards, has far-reaching consequences. “It is not only the failures that we as an industry have to complain about in the direction of East Asia. Rather, we’ll see worldwide and hitherto unforeseen diversions of all flows of raw materials, reinforced by protectionism and the threat of trade wars. We can’t even imagine what the effects would be on the German market,” says VDM board member Murat Bayram.

The VDM therefore advises its members to keep an eye on the raw materials market and to be able to react to defaults at an early stage if necessary. Since China is simultaneously striving for an environmental and technology revolution, including almost complete raw material-based self-sufficiency, there must be a rethinking in the entire industry in Germany. Safety first – also in a commercial sense. Not only the price, but also the solvency and thus the payment strength of a business partner will play a more important role than before.

So far, exports of scrap from Germany to China have reached 235,164 tonnes of non-ferrous metals. “It is unlikely that there is a market that can compensate for this in the short term. So we also need plans as to what should happen if the quantities accumulate here and remain with us. Not to mention the changes and influences on raw material prices,” Bayram continues.

As early as next year, imports of permitted waste are to take place via a limited number of ports. The background is the state control of the imported raw materials and waste.

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