China bans foreign scrap metal from Jan 2021, abolishes scrap import quota

China will no longer accept scrap metal shipments from abroad from January 1, 2021, the government said on Wednesday November 25.

Scrap buyers in China were informed via a joint statement from the environmental and commerce ministries, the General Administration of Customs and the National Development and Reform Commission that their import quotas for foreign waste, including waste paper and scrap metal, will expire in just over a months’ time.

That would put an end to the quota system in place since the middle of 2019, under which Chinese importers have to comply with emission requirements to prove to authorities their eligibility in processing scrap.

The latest batch of import quotas, announced in mid-October, permitted only 5,980 tonnes of copper scrap to be imported into China. This brought the total amount of copper scrap allowed to enter the country so far in 2020 up to 885,455 tonnes.

To save the massive amounts of copper contained in scrap imports, China launched a re-classification system to allow trade of high purity copper scrap as merchandise but not waste starting this month.

But global copper scrap metal suppliers are now hesitant to send their cargoes to China, citing a higher risk of rejection over the vague lines drawn between “recyclable copper materials” and “to-be-banned copper scrap”, industry executives said at a recent Fastmarkets Asia Copper Webinar.