Chinese Waste Import Restrictions/Impacts

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by Walter Wright, Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.

The Solid Waste Association of North America (“SWANA”) issued what it describes as an “update” on the topic of:  China Waste Import Restrictions and Impacts on State and Local Recycling Programs (“Update”).

SWANA describes itself as “an organization of more than 10,000 public and private sector professionals committed to advancing from solid waste management to resource management through their shared emphasis on education, advocacy and research.”

China had previously put in place a ban of the import of certain scrap materials. The ban took effect in January 2018 and applied to 24 categories of scrap and recyclables. In March 2018 a 0.5% contamination standard was implemented.

The issue is critical because demand is obviously a driver of recycling growth. China has had significant importance in terms of scrap and recyclable demand because of its status as the largest importer of such materials in the world.

Waste Paper at Hong Kong dock (Photo Credit: Reuters)

The SWANA Update is intended to provide an overview of the effect that the Chinese restrictions are having on the export of recyclables from the United States and Canada. This analysis includes what it describes as the increased movement of material to southeast Asian countries and additional potential restrictions.

SWANA notes that the Chinese restrictions have caused a dramatic decline in the amount of scrap and recyclables exported from the United States to China. Its Update includes a graph illustrating the impact on both mixed paper and scrap plastics.

The SWANA Update states that other countries, primarily in Asia, have increased their import of these materials from the United States and other countries. In recent months several of these countries (citing Vietnam and Indonesia) are stated to have announced measures to reduce the flow of recyclables into their ports. Graphs are included to illustrate the change in the amount of scrap paper and plastics to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Update also identifies what it characterizes as SWANA’s aggressive steps to respond to the Chinese restrictions. They are stated to include:

  • Establishment of a Recycling Task Force consisting of industry and municipal leaders from the United States and Canada to guide SWANA’s response
  • Identifying best practices for reducing contamination of curbside recyclables
  • Creating demand for recycled content
  • Requesting that Congress include support for recycling in the Infrastructure bill
  • Working with other recycling stakeholders to amplify messages/concerns
  • Providing education on the impact of the Chinese waste import restrictions at online and in-person events

A copy of the Update can be downloaded here.


This article was first published on Mitchell Williams Law website.


About the Author:

Walter G. Wright, Jr. is a member of the Business Practice Group.  His practice has focused for almost thirty years on environmental, energy (petroleum marketing), and water law.  Mr. Wright’s expertise includes counseling clients on issues involving environmental permits, compliance strategies, enforcement defense, property redevelopment issues, environmental impact statements, and procurement/management of water rights.

Mr. Wright routinely advises developers, lenders, petroleum marketers, and others about effective strategies for structuring real estate and corporate transactions to address environmental financial risks.  He also serves as General Counsel and provides legislative representation to the Arkansas Oil Marketers Association, Arkansas Recyclers Association (scrap facilities) and Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association.  A unique part of his practice has been drafting and negotiation of a variety of specialized agreements involving the sale or consignment of motor fuels along with the ancillary agreements associated with the upstream segment of the petroleum industry.

Is China WTE Giant headed to Canada?

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China Jinjiang Environment Holding Company, a major player waste-to-energy operations in China is expanding around the world.  This Spring and Summer, it acquired WTE facilities in Indonesia and Brazil.  It is also looking at India and Germany.  To date, there is no news of interest by the company in North America.

In the Spring, PT Jinjiang Environment Indonesia, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Jinjiang Environment Holding Company,  acquired a 95% stake in PT Indo Green Power (IGP), which has secured a concession to construct, own and operate a WTE facility in Palembang, Indonesia, with a total installed waste treatment capacity of 1,000 tonnes per day.

A Jinjiang WTE project (Image credit: Jinjiang)

Also in the Spring, China Jinjiang Environment announced that it had agreed to subscribe for a majority stake in Foxx URE-BA Ambiental Ltda (“Foxx URE-BA”), a Brazilian WTE company.  Foxx URE-BA will construct and operate a WTE project located in Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil with a planned waste treatment capacity of 825 tons per day. This is the first WTE and the first PPP waste treatment project in Brazil.

With respect to Indonesia, Under the concession terms, announced in early June, IGP has an exclusive right to provide waste treatment services in a defined area in Palembang for a period of 30 years from the date of the commencement of commercial operation of the project. This is in consideration of a tipping fee and electricity tariff payable by the relevant local authorities for the waste treatment services provided and electricity generated by the Palembang project, respectively.

With Palembang, Indonesia being the largest port and trade centre in South Sumatra, and the ninth most populous city in Indonesia, the market potential for waste treatment is significant.

China Jinjiang Environment non-executive, non-independent chairman Wang Yuanlou describes the IGP acquisition as another step in the company’s overseas expansion and will help to strengthen its footprint in the Southeast Asia WTE market. With its target set on overseas waste treatment markets with strong potential, it has been riding on the One Belt One Road initiative and has explored markets such as India, Germany, Brazil and Indonesia.

In doing so, the company has applied its mature and advanced technologies as well as its operating models in countries and regions with similar waste composition as China, setting standards for the group through creating a series of overseas benchmark projects.

In 2017, China Jinjiang Environment secured three projects in India, making it a watershed year for the group’s overseas expansion. Earlier this year, the group laid the foundation for exploring the European market with its incorporation of Waste Tec in Germany to promote advanced waste pre-treatment technology process in Europe, which involves the organic combination of its own technology. In April, the group agreed to buy a 51% stake in Brazil’s first WTE project, extending its reach to South America.

Established in 1998, China Jinjiang Environment is the first private WTE operator in China with the largest waste treatment capacity in operation. It operates 20 WTE facilities in 12 provinces, autonomous regions and centrally administered municipalities in China and has an additional three WTE facilities under construction and 21 WTE facilities at the preparatory stage. The facilities in operation have a total installed waste treatment capacity of 28,280 tonnes per day.

The Sao Paulo Barueri Waste-to-Energy Project

Europe’s Mandatory Circular Economy Rules: Lessons for Canada

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As part of its continuous effort to transform Europe’s economy into a more sustainable one and to implement the ambitious Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission recently adopted a new set of measures, including:

  • A Europe-wide EU Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy and annex to transform the way plastics and plastics products are designed, produced, used and recycled. By 2030, all plastics packaging should be recyclable. The Strategy also highlights the need for specific measures, possibly a legislative instrument, to reduce the impact of single-use plastics, particularly in our seas and oceans.  To reduce the leakage of plastics into the environment, the Commission has adopted a new proposal on Port Reception Facilities, to tackle sea-based marine litter and published a report on the impact of the use of oxo-degradable plastic, including oxo-degradable plastic carrier bags, on the environment.
  • A Communication on options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation that assesses how the rules on waste, products and chemicals relate to each other.
  • Monitoring Framework on progress towards a circular economy at EU and national level. It is composed of a set of ten key indicators which cover each phase – i.e. production, consumption, waste management and secondary raw materials – as well as economic aspects – investments and jobs – and innovation.
  • Report on Critical Raw Materials and the circular economy that highlights the potential to make the use of the 27 critical materials in our economy more circular.

As part of the Circular Economy package, Member States will have to ensure that, all biowaste (including food waste) is either collected separately or composted by 2023.  The requirement for separation of collecting biowaste separately is seen as a huge boost for the composting and anaerobic digestion industries.

In Canada, Ontario is one province that appears poised to require mandatory separation of organic waste at the curbside.  In late 2016, Ontario proclaimed the Waste Free Ontario Act, comprising the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and the Waste Diversion Transition Act.  Specific regulations under the new Act has yet to be promulgated but it is speculated by some that a ban on landfilling source separated organics (also referred to as green bin waste) will be part of the new regulations.  In the Spring, the Ontario government finalized the Food and Organic Waste Framework after consultations with stakeholders.  The Framework includes actions and policies that seek to prevent and reduce food and organic waste, rescue surplus food, collect and recover food and organic waste, and support beneficial uses.

A burning question with respect to the Waste Free Ontario Act and any new regulations is what action the new Progressive Conservative Government will take.  The Progressive Conservatives were voted into power in Ontario in a Spring election, taking over from the Liberals who had run the province for 15 years.  The new Ontario government has already scrapped Greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program in Province.

Source: Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016


Proper Sampling of a Waste Pile

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The TDJ Group, Inc. is a manufacturer of proprietary chemicals, which are used to stabilize heavy metal wastes for a wide range of industry, including soil remediation and industrial waste recycling recently prepared a YouTube® video demonstrating the proper method

Regardless of waste type, all of TDJ Chemistries have been performance tested & validated for long-term stability by the U.S. EPA, U.S. Federal Highway Administration and the US Department of Defense.

The video demonstrates the proper sampling method referencing ASTM Standard D75 – Standard Practice for Sampling Aggregates and U.S. EPA Manual SW-846 Compendium, Chapter Nine: Sampling Plans.

The video emphasizes that collecting a single grab sample from a waste pile is insufficient and is not representative.  It discusses sampling strategies and equipment.

Using GPS trackers to fight toxic soil dumping

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As reported by the CBC News and the Montreal Gazette, the Province of Quebec and the City of Montreal are joining forces to try to crack down on a possible link between organized crime and the dumping of contaminated soil on agricultural land.

The solution? A GPS system that can track where toxic soil is — and isn’t — being dumped.

According to the province, there are about two million metric tonnes of contaminated soil to be disposed of every year.

Toxic soil is supposed to be dumped on designated sites at treatment centres. But the Sûreté du Québec has confirmed it believes members of organized crime have been dumping soil from contaminated excavation sites onto farmland.

Quebec Provincial police confirm they are investigating a possible link between organized crime and the dumping of contaminated soil.

“It’s a constant battle. The city and all municipalities have to be very vigilant about any types of possible corruption,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

“What we are talking about today supports a solution, but again, we always have to be proactive.”

The new pilot project, called Traces Québec, is set to launch in May. Companies would have to register for the web platform, which can track in real time where soil is being transported — from the time it leaves a contaminated site to the time it’s disposed of.

Some environmentalists say they’re concerned about the impact the toxic soil has had on agricultural land where it’s been dumped. They’re also uncertain about how a computerized tracking system will put an end to corruption and collusion.

“Right now, there’s no environmental police force in Quebec so there have been investigations into these toxic soils being dumped but unfortunately nobody’s been held accountable yet,” said Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Quebec Green Party.

“There’s really a lack of a coherent strategy for how Quebec is going to decontaminate all of these different toxic sites all over the province. There’s no announcement of any new money.”

The city and the province say this is a first step at addressing the issue and more announcements will be on the way in the coming months.

The pilot project — a joint effort with the city of Montreal — will test a system, known as Traces Québec, that uses GPS and other technologies to track contaminated soil. The first test case will involve a city plan to turn a former municipal yard in Outremont into a 1.7-hectare park. Work is to start in the fall.  All bidders on the project will have to agree to use the Traces Québec system.

Using the system, an official cargo document is created that includes the soil’s origin and destination and its level of contamination. Trucks are equipped with GPS chips that allow officials to trace the route from pickup to drop-off.

Mayor Valérie Plante said the pilot project is “a concrete response to a concrete problem.”

She said she wants to protect construction workers and residents by ensuring contaminated soil is disposed of properly. The city also wants to make sure the money it spends on decontamination is going to companies that disposed of soil safely and legally.

“Municipalities have to be very vigilant about any types of possible corruption,” she said. “We know there are cracks in the system and some people have decided to use them and it’s not acceptable.”

Plante said Montreal will study the results of the pilot project before deciding whether to make the system mandatory on all city projects.

The Traces Québec system was developed by Réseau Environnement, a non-profit group that represents 2,700 environmental experts.

Pierre Lacroix, president of the group, said today some scofflaws dispose of contaminated soil illegally at a very low cost by producing false documents and colluding with other companies to circumvent laws.

He said the Traces Québec system was tested on a few construction sites to ensure it is robust and can’t be circumvented. “We will have the truck’s licence plate number, there will be GPS tracking, trucks will be weighed,” Lacroix said.

“If the truck, for example, doesn’t take the agreed-upon route, the software will send an alert and we’ll be able to say, ‘Why did you drive that extra kilometre and why did it take you an extra 15 minutes to reach your destination?’”

Organized crime can be creative in finding new ways to avoid detection and Lacroix admitted “no system is perfect.”

But he noted that “at the moment, it’s anything goes, there are no controls. Technology today can help take big, big, big steps” toward thwarting criminals.

With files from CBC reporter Sudha Krishnan

How the GPS tracking system will work

Recycling end-of-life materials may be perpetuating toxic chemicals in new products

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A researcher from the Canadian Environmental Law Association and paralegal, Fe de Leon, recently co-published a paper with HEJSupport International Co-Director Olga Speranskaya to bring public attention to toxic chemicals that appear in new products made out of recycled materials.  The authors of the paper argue that many countries have made investments into achieving progress towards a circular economy, but little or no attention is paid on toxic chemicals that appear in new products made out of recycled materials. The paper cites a growing body of evidence of how a circular economy fails to address concerns regarding toxic chemicals in products.

Fe de Leon, Researcher and Paralegal, CELA

In the paper, the authors cite a 2017 study prepared by IPEN, an environmental activist organization that focuses on synthetic chemicals, which revealed elevated concentrations of globally targeted toxic flame retardants in plastic toys.  The IPEN study claimed to have found elevated concentrations of toxic persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in samples of plastic toys purchased in different stores in Canada and other 25 countries globally.  The study further stated that the levels of some chemicals were more than five times higher than recommended international limits.  These chemicals include PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) such as octabromodiphenyl ether (OctaBDE), decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE); and SCCPs (short chain chlorinated paraffins).  They are listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and are internationally banned or restricted due to their hazardous characteristics.  They all are persistent, highly toxic, travel long distances and build up in the food chain.  However, their presence in new products, although they are banned or restricted, opens up the discussion of a problem regarding recycling as a key component of a circular economy.

The paper concludes that product recycling and a focus on a circular economy should be encouraged.  However, material flows should be free from hazardous chemicals, at the minimum those chemicals which have already been regulated under the international treaties.

Olga Speranskaya, HEJSupport International Co-Director, IPEN CoChair

Eco Waste Solutions to demonstrate WTE technology under US Department of Defense ESTCP Program

The US Department of Defense’s Environmental Research Programs has announced that Eco Waste Solutions has been approved to move forward with its Deployable Waste-to-Energy Convertor for Expeditionary Bases (DWECX) with Thermal Energy to Electrical Power System (TEEPS); a project in collaboration with Ethosgen and their teammate Rockwell Collins. Ethosgen will provide project management and system engineering while Rockwell Collins will provide detailed design and hardware for the integrated TEEPS.

“We’ve known for a long time that one of the major environmental challenges facing the Department of Defense is dealing with solid waste on expeditionary bases,” says Jean Lucas, President of Eco Waste. “Military installations often use open burn pits, which pose significant risks to the health of military troops, local populace, and the environment. Our containerized waste systems can solve this problem, as they are easily deployable, operate in extreme climates, and don’t create airborne health hazards. The ESTCP project gives us an opportunity to take this further and demonstrate a practical approach to small-scale power generation from waste.”

Jean Lucus, President and CEO for Eco Waste Solutions

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the US military to position itself on the cutting edge of waste-to-energy technology,” says James Abrams, founder and President of EthosGen. “Successful small-scale waste-to-energy simply hasn’t been done like this before, and it could transform the way all expeditionary forces deal with waste.”

The ESTCP’s goal is to identify and demonstrate the most promising innovative and cost-effective technologies and methods that address the DoD’s high-priority environmental requirements. To ensure that demonstrated technologies have real impact, ESTCP collaborates with end-users and regulators throughout the process of development and execution. Demonstration results are subject to rigorous technical reviews to ensure that conclusions are well-supported by data.

The DOD has committed to addressing burn pit issues and meeting its operational energy objectives, but solutions need to meet requirements for mobility, simplicity and efficiency. Eco Waste’s partnership with EthosGen solves these challenges.

“Our containerized waste systems have been used on military bases around the world for more than 10 years,” notes Lucas, recognized for her work on small-scale waste-to-energy. “However, the challenge has been finding an appropriate energy recovery technology to integrate with them. Our Deployable Waste-to-Energy Converter for Expeditionary Bases (DWECX) with Thermal Energy to Electrical Power System (TEEPS) can do both – while still maintaining a footprint no larger than the 20-foot ISO container required by expeditionary forces.”

About Eco Waste Solutions

Eco Waste Solutions (EWS) is a world leader in delivering modular thermal waste conversion solutions for military, industry and communities.  EWS delivers proven, bankable, waste management and energy-from-waste technologies. With clients as varied as Canadian Department of National Defence, the Swedish Armed Forces, and mining companies with projects all over the world, EWS continues to set the standard for waste management technology in North America and worldwide.

About EthosGen

EthosGen has established itself as an emerging global leader in deploying modular utility-grade systems to meet onsite electrical power and heating/cooling needs.  EthosGen offers scalable, flexible, packaged mechanical systems that convert heat from otherwise wasted sources such as waste streams, industrial processes, or geothermal heat to produce valuable energy at double-digit efficiencies.  EthosGen contributes to our clean energy future through its packaged solutions that are within reach of nearly anyone, anywhere.

About Rockwell Collins

Rockwell Collins (NYSE: COL) is a leader in aviation and high-integrity solutions for commercial and military customers around the world. Every day we help pilots safely and reliably navigate to the far corners of the earth; keep warfighters aware and informed in battle; deliver millions of messages for airlines and airports; and help passengers stay connected and comfortable throughout their journey. As experts in flight deck avionics, cabin electronics, cabin interiors, information management, mission communications, and simulation and training, we offer a comprehensive portfolio of products and services that can transform our customers’ futures.