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Waste budgets at risk from China ban

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China’s import restrictions on secondary materials will affect the viability of local authority recycling contracts and increase council tax bills, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has been warned.

Concern was expressed during a debate last week in Westminster led by Mary Creagh, Labour chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, LGC’s sister Materials Recycling World reports. She told fellow MPs of a visit to the London recycling firm Bywaters during which she was told that the price per tonne of mixed paper had fallen from £100 to £20 because of Chinese restrictions.

Since the beginning of the year China has banned post-consumer plastics and mixed papers and restricted imports of recovered materials if they cannot meet a contamination level of 0.3%

Ms Creagh said: “That is going to have an impact on the viability of councils’ recycling contracts and will feed through into council tax bills.”

Ms Creagh also challenged environment secretary Michael Gove to set long-term recycling targets for the waste industry, following the steps of the EU’s target to increase recycling rates to 65% by 2035.

Reports that the government was lobbying against such targets in Brussels were not denied by Mr Gove.

He said: “I do think that setting appropriate recycling targets is absolutely part of it.

“One of the challenges of the EU target is that because weight is such an important component of the way in which they measure the recycling, that it doesn’t always incentivise quite the right behaviour.”

He claimed that the UK government had gone further than the EU in tackling single-use plastics.

“We’ve shown that we’ve gone further and faster than the EU – that’s the ambition that this government has for a truly green Brexit,” said Mr Gove.

Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chief executive Lee Marshall confirmed councils are facing decreases in income and increases in gate fees.

”The ban in China is having a real impact on council finances that is likely to carry into the next financial year, even if prices do pick back up a bit as new markets are secured,” he said.

”Councils are at the end of the price chain and so it does feel they are bearing the brunt of the changes as others in the chain pass on the pain.”

MRW’s latest prices report indicates that the average typical rate for mixed paper price for domestic and export was around £50 per tonne, down £10 on the past month with further falls expected.

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