As I write this, we are fewer than two weeks away from election day, and coronavirus infections are increasing in parts of the U.S., with health officials warning that the situation could get worse as the weather gets colder. This raises the possibility that localized lockdowns could be introduced as officials attempt to control the spread of the virus until a vaccine is introduced. For these reasons, the murkiness that has defined 2020 continues and perhaps has even intensified.

Given this, recyclers likely were relieved to get more clarity recently regarding China’s scrap import policies that could increase the amount of furnace-ready red metals and aluminum scrap that is shipped from the U.S. to that nation.

In mid-October, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment updated guidelines for the Nov. 1 implementation of the country’s brass, copper and aluminum “recycled raw materials” standards, which China had planned to introduce in July. The new system eliminates the quota system that China previously had in place for imports of red metals and aluminum scrap.

“In mid-October, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment updated guidelines for the Nov. 1 implementation of the country’s brass, copper and aluminum ‘recycled raw materials’ standards.”

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, has voiced its approval for the standards, which it says reinforce the association’s long-standing position that scrap is not waste.

“ISRI has been advocating to the Chinese government for nearly 20 years that scrap should be pulled out of the ‘solid waste’ import regime and recognized as a valuable raw material,” ISRI President Robin Wiener says in a news release ISRI issued in support of China’s announcement. “China is doing just that with selected grades of nonferrous scrap, and we are expecting China to establish additional standards for ferrous metals and plastic pellets in 2021.”

For more on the Harmonized Tariff Codes for these furnace-ready scrap metals, see http://bit.ly/China-standards.

During the Bureau of International Recycling World Recycling Convention Week in mid-October, Shen Dong of OmniSource Corp., Fort Wayne, Indiana, said China’s 2020 quota system for scrap materials has seen it bring in about 880,000 tons of copper scrap and slightly more than 800,000 tons of aluminum scrap as of September, volumes that are well-below what the country imported in previous years.

China’s new standards for nonferrous scrap imports could help to reopen the door to a once-popular export market, and these numbers likely will increase in the coming year. In any case, they offer some clarity amid the turbidity that has defined much of 2020.