China retaliates against Trump by slapping tariff on recyclables

Bales of recycling get wet outside Rogue Waste Systems in White City.

In another blow to Oregon’s beleaguered recycling sector, China announced new tariffs on imported scrap materials Wednesday in retaliation for tariffs on China unilaterally imposed by President Donald Trump.

The tariffs apply to scrap plastics, paper, aluminum, ferrous metals, copper, nickel, zinc, tin and other base metals.

The tariffs are slated to go into effect Aug. 23, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., a Washington D.C.-based national trade group.

“ISRI regrets that the trade dispute between the United States and China continues to escalate without any indication that the two governments will be negotiating an agreement on trade,” the trade group relayed in a press statement. “There is no doubt that these tariffs will impair the already diminishing scrap exports from the United States to China.”

Such tariffs will not be levied on other countries that export scrap recyclables to China, the trade group noted, but it’s unclear if those nations can fulfill all of the demand in China.

The domestic recycling industry is already reeling from new Chinese purity standards for accepting recycled paper and plastic. As a result, bales of recycled paper and plastic are now sitting idle in Oregon warehouses or being buried in landfills.

Scrap recyclables exported to China are a big business.

In the first six months of 2018, total scrap exports from the U.S. to China were valued at $2.2 billion, the trade group reported. That’s a 24 percent drop from the same period in 2017, due to the new purity standards.

In all of 2017, the U.S. exported $5.6 billion worth of scrap commodities to China.

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