China to keep issuing scrap import quotas till end-2020: environment ministry

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s environment ministry said on Tuesday it would keep up its system of approving import quotas for solid waste, including scrap metal, until the end of 2020, in a move that will soothe concerns over imminent disruption to supply.

“In the second half of the year, our ministry will continue the approval mode ... and further reduce the import volume of solid waste, including scrap metal, according to the established plan,” Liu Youbin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said at a monthly press conference.

Import quotas are periodically issued by the China Solid Waste and Chemicals Management Center, which is under the environment ministry.

China plans to cut imports of solid waste to zero by the end of 2020, the culmination of a years-long crackdown on foreign garbage, and major shipping lines have already advised customers they will stop accepting cargoes.

High-grade copper and aluminium scrap meeting new standards have been reclassified from a waste to a resource and will still be able to enter China.

However, the procedure for importing material under these standards - due to be implemented on July 1 - has not been finalised, raising the prospect of a squeeze on a key source of supply for fabricators and smelters in the coming months.

By the end of this year, the ministry will ensure China is importing basically zero solid waste, Liu added in the virtual conference.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Tom Daly; Editing by Shailesh Kuber