China expands its ban on waste and recycling imports from first-world countries

China is extending its ban on imports of solid waste a year after introducing its first restrictions against first-world countries that send their garbage and recycling there. The regulatory action expands its prohibition to thirty-two categories of solid waste, up from the twenty-four banned last year. The ban will go into effect on December 31, according to official news agency Xinhua, citing four Chinese government agencies.

China says the policy changes are in line with a new push to protect the environment, suggesting Beijing no longer wants to be the world's trash can or recycle bin. Since 1992, 72 percent of global plastic waste has ended up in China and Hong Kong, according to a study in the journal Science Advances. China bought more than half of the scrap materials exported by the United States last year, but that proportion has been falling with Beijing's regulatory moves cutting down the types of waste Chinese companies could buy.

Newly banned product types include hardware, ships, auto parts, stainless steel waste and scrap, titanium and wood. For products such as cardboard and metal, China set a contamination level of 0.5 per cent last year, an extremely low threshold that required the U.S. and other recyclers to change technology and sorting techniques to meet the new standards. Global plastic exports to China were forecast to fall from 7.4 million tonnes in 2016 to 1.5 million tonnes in 2018, while paper exports might tumble nearly a quarter.