National Sword initiatives continue to impact Chinese markets and mills. To remind the reader, one of the outcomes of the 2017 National Sword initiative is that Mixed Waste Paper Mixed (MWP) was banned from importation into China – it is one of the twenty-four grades of recyclables no longer allowed to be imported. In addition to the ban of MWP, the remaining material grades that can be imported into China must meet a new stringent quality standard of 0.5% contaminants or less.
China has been the primary end market for North American sourced MWP for the last twenty years. Secondary markets do exist but there are challenges utilizing these markets during all parts of the year.
Active, viable end markets are critical to the success of any recycling efforts and programs.
The information we receive regarding end markets seems to change day by day. As we receive updates from our marketing partners we are actively making processing changes in the Plants and communicating to our staff and important customers.
There will be significant changes in the recycling supply chain including: upgrades and retro fits to processing plants so that the new contamination standards can be met and increased communication to consumers and customers on what can and cannot be recycled to name but two. These investments (retrofits) will be expensive and will have to be paid for. Other outcomes will certainly become apparent soon. Hindsight would be useful.
Over the years there has been much debate on whether source separation or single stream collection is the right approach. Source separation is more expensive, single stream is easier for the consumer and less expensive. A clean recyclable commodity is at the forefront of everyone’s mind and there is no doubt that source separated materials are cleaner and more useful to and end user.
The recycling industry has experienced several business cycles over the last thirty years. These changes with respect to contamination levels would in our view be the most significant of all the changes experienced and will likely result in significant impact to processing of recyclables in the future.