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China's National Sword cuts deeply into US plastic scrap exports

HOUSTON, January 16 (PCW) -- US plastic scrap exports to China plunged in Nov due to the country's new campaign to control imported scrap and trash.

The National Sword program as it is called has resulted in increased inspections of scrap loads in the US and, if cleared for export, again when reaching destinations in China. Rather than risk having loads rejected, many exporters redirect loads elsewhere--often in Southeast Asia--or in the case of dirty scrap (like dirty PP super sacks) pay to have it disposed of. Export licenses granted for plastic scrap exports have also been curtailed.

China in 2016 was the top destination of US plastic scrap, at 778,438 metric tons valued at $283.1 million.

Exports were down in Nov 2017 in all five categories tracked by US Customs and Border Control. They totaled 13,864 mt, down by 51,057 mt or 79% from Nov 2016, the latest US Commerce Department data show.

The most extreme drop was for PET scrap, at 871 mt in Nov 2017, down by 10,159 mt or 92% from Nov 2016. PE scrap exports totaled 4,106 mt in Nov 2017, down by 26,302 mt or 86.5%. For PS scrap the Nov 2017 total was 489 mt, down 1,032 mt or 68%; PVC scrap was at 1,196 mt, down by 5,607 mt or 82% from Nov 2016. The fifth category, unsorted plastic scrap listed as "other," showed Nov 2017 exports to China at 7,202 mt, down by 7,957 mt or 55.5%. -- Xavier A. Cronin

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