Following a recent announcement on waste bans from China and India, the UK’s Recycling Association has urged the government to support further investment into the UK’s paper and cardboard recycling sector.

The Chemical Engineer reported that China has confirmed it will be banning the imports of recovered fibre grades by the end of 2020, which follows on from the waste import bans that were introduced at the end of 2017, including a ban on mixed paper waste.

As part of a wider anti-pollution effort, China plans to ban all solid waste imports by the end of this year.

In May, Indonesia confirmed a 2 per cent contamination limit on imports of paper and plastic waste. Recycling contamination is when non-recyclable materials or the incorrect materials for a particular recycling stream end up in the system.

Simon Ellin, the CEO of the Recycling Association, explained that Indonesia plans to reduce that limit down to 0.5 per cent, which will affect how much recycling waste the UK can export.

He added that half of the 8 million tonnes a year used by the UK is exported because the UK lacks the capacity to process it and that usually 3 million tonnes would be shipped to China, but now that is no longer feasible given the country’s new bans in imports and their reduced import quotas.

According to the Recycling Association, the import ban announcements from China and Indonesia show that the UK government needs to find more investment for paper and cardboard recycling to achieve its circular economy aspirations.

Ellin noted that the investment needs to focus on developing the infrastructure to meet the demands and aims of the UK’s Resource and Waste Strategy to minimise waste and promote resource efficiency.

He would like to see the exploration of a pulp mill that will allow export of recycled pulp to various global manufacturing centres. Ellie explained that when manufactured goods are purchased from Asian countries, the UK must return cardboard packaging materials to them as pulp for further manufacturing and use.

Further to that, Ellin suggests that the UK could invest in the paper and cardboard manufacturing sectors so that finished cardboard and paper products can then be sold around the world.

The Recycling Association is calling for the government to work with them to develop a feasibility study on the economics and benefits of an improved recycling infrastructure for paper and cardboard.

Ellin noted that exports to Asia will continue, but the market is narrowing now that some countries have placed restrictions on imports.

“The export market for paper and cardboard is, and will remain, essential to the UK economy. But we have to recognise that in a market of ever-decreasing circles, we have to find the most economically and environmentally sustainable solution for all of the paper and cardboard we consume that is manufactured outside of these shores,” said Ellin.

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