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China publishes new standards for copper and aluminium scrap

[BEIJING] China's market regulator published new standards for high-grade copper scrap and aluminium scrap metal on Sunday, shedding some light on what material will be allowed into the country from the second half of this year.

Details of the new standards, which take effect on July 1, have been highly anticipated by metals traders eager to know if they will still be able to ship their scrap into China, the world's biggest metals consumer, as it bolsters its environmental crackdown on imports of solid waste.

Beijing has set a target of reducing solid waste imports to zero by the end of 2020 but scrap metal meeting the new standards, published by the State Administration for Market Regulation, will be classed as a resource rather than waste.

The new standards set minimum copper contents ranging from 99.9 per cent for types of scrap including bare bright copper wire, commonly known as "barley" under Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) specifications, down to 94 per cent for No 3 copper scrap nodules.

"All the other ISRI grades ... with much lower copper contents and foreign elements (are) also permitted for import based on the full table they've established," said Michael Lion, president of Lion Consulting Asia and a China scrap metals veteran. "So copper refineries that refine these grades get their feedstock."

In the case of aluminium scrap materials, the minimum aluminium and aluminium alloy content was set at 100 per cent for recycled aluminium ingots, 98 per cent for aluminium castings and 91 per cent for aluminium blocks.

Reacting to the new standards, a China-based scrap copper importer and an industry official both described them as "very strict," although a scrap aluminium importer said they were not as severe as feared and it remained to be seen how strongly China's customs would enforce them.