Plastic balesThe U.S. and China have fired their latest salvo in their ongoing trade war, and this time tariffs have been applied to recovered plastics and a number of other U.S. recyclables.

On Aug. 23, each country began imposing new rounds of penalties on $16 billion worth of each other’s goods. Among the hundreds of categories of products, this latest round included China’s 25 percent tariff on recovered plastics, cardboard and paper and various recovered metals. Chinese authorities released the list earlier this month.

According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), U.S. aluminum sent to China now has a 50 percent tariff on it. China on Aug. 23 bumped it up from 25 percent to 50 percent.

The 25 percent tariff now applies to recovered PET, PE, PVC, PS and other plastics. The duties are likely to further reduce the already-crippled scrap plastics trade with China. U.S. export statistics show aluminum exports, not counting used beverage containers, dropped by about one-third after the 25 percent penalty went into effect.

Recovered plastic shipment have already been slashed by China’s other import restrictions. During the first half of the year, 30 million pounds were exported to China, down from 379 million during the first half of 2017.

The Aug. 23 tariffs also included, for the first time, virgin resin produced in the U.S. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has been speaking out in opposition to chemicals and plastics tariffs, according to Plastics News.

What could be next

China has drafted a list of tariffs on 5,000 product codes, with the duties targeting about $60 billion in U.S. goods.

For virgin chemicals and plastics, that list could be even more painful than the Aug. 23 tariffs, according to the ACC. The $60 billion list is in response to the Trump Administration’s proposed 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. This round could go into effect starting in September.

Bloomberg and Reuters both reported that talks between the countries haven’t yielded significant progress, making another round of tariffs more likely.

Photo credit: Frank Fiedler/Shutterstock

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