China has closed its lid on plastic imports. The UK's is overflowing with few options.

“For the UK market, which exported on average 65% of its plastic waste to China per year before the ban, a massive change is on the horizon.”


China has been a significant importer of waste from around the world since the ‘80s – in 2012 nearly 56% of exported waste plastic landed in China, that’s close to 9 million tonnes. The statistics are truly staggering.

This type of waste, despite its connotations, has been a driver for the Chinese economy via the extraction of the value contained within it and reprocessing the material to fuel its manufacturing sectors, amongst others.


China has however decided that it will now stop accepting a whole array of materials. The policy, known as “Yang Laji” (or “foreign garbage”) , includes the ban of 24 types of solid waste, plastics, textile and paper imports. All of this reform is being implemented with the hope of being able to reduce pollution within the country to improve the population’s health and standard of living whilst making more effective use of its domestically produced material. Arguably one of the costs of such high economic development – as China has seen – is that of increased pollution and lower health/environmental standards and now that the economy has moved through this phase, it is now in a position to be able to focus on its domestic standards.

The Minister of Environmental Protection commented that “we found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials...this polluted the environment seriously”and consequently has sought to forbid a list of highly polluting raw materials.


For the UK market, which exported on average 65% of its plastic waste to China per year before the ban, a massive change is on the horizon. Amongst other outcomes, this may mean that UK councils stop collecting a whole range of materials, including; lids on yogurt products, meat trays etc. as they look to avoid the higher costs of sending the material to an intensive reprocessing facility to meet the higher specification requirements now in place. UK Consumers have benefited from the convenience of throwing all plastics into one bin, this may now have to change to separate the various grades to make this model financially viable. As the Independent reports, Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, was quoted as saying to MP’s that “I have not given sufficient thought” – a worrying concern for those which have counted on, and become accustomed to, such international options for so long. One of the key difficulties was the rapid speed of implementation of this reform which has highlighted the stark lack of capacity within the UK to deal with the material. This poses a huge number of challenges for the UK, and others, in order to adapt their recycling chain fast enough. Potential options may be landfill, storage or incineration, but all have clear limitations (political, environmental, environmental) and will have to be seriously re-evaluated to make them viable. Or, perhaps, it is a wider and more fundamental problem with how packaging is designed, consumed and ultimately disposed of where producers need to take greater responsibility throughout the entire lifecycle of the product. As a trading organisation operating with these materials in question, OCI has observed and reacted to these changes. OCI has a well embedded presence within the recyclables market and has a diverse range of outlets for a breadth of products. We seek, and have implemented, a range of alternatives for companies across the UK and Europe to provide cost effective and environmentally responsible exports routes. For further information, on how OCI can help your business navigate this monumental shift in recycling, please use the below contact methods: Web: https://www.oci-group.co.uk Email: hello@oci-group.co.uk Telephone: +44 (0) 203 137 7326