Paper Recycling and China's National Sword Policy

In 2018, China implemented a ban on the importation of certain recyclable materials, including unsorted waste and scrap paper—what we call “mixed paper.” China also lowered the contaminants level for all other recovered paper imports to a very restrictive 0.5 percent – a far lower limit than is generally practiced around the world.

Because Chinese paper mills have long used recovered paper imported from the U.S. to manufacture new products, these actions have disrupted the recovered fiber market in the U.S.

Fortunately, recovered fiber markets are complex, efficient and dynamic. The paper and paper-based packaging industry continues to innovate and adapt to market demands. Recovered paper consumption at U.S. paper mills is increasing as companies are expanding capacity and making processing improvements.

AF&PA believes market forces should guide paper and paper-based packaging recovery and recycling systems to promote waste reduction. The collection, processing and utilization of recovered paper should be done in a way that enables it to go to its highest value end use.

AF&PA works to improve the quality of recovered paper in the marketplace by:

  • Supporting public-private partnerships that enable communities to improve the quality and quantity of recyclable materials produced by material recovery facilities (MRFs).
  • Educating consumers to improve recycling behavior.

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