This story has been updated.
The Indian government says it will ban scrap plastic imports, a move that threatens to further disrupt the U.S. recycling industry by closing a growing market.
India’s environment ministry issued a release today, laying out a handful of changes to the country’s hazardous waste rules, some of which cover scrap plastic movement.
“Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country,” the release stated, specifying that the ban closes exemptions to existing import restrictions. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) shared the information in an alert to members earlier today.
India banned scrap plastic imports in 2016, but later that year the country opened up certain exceptions, allowing companies in designated economic development areas to legally import plastic. The rule announced today appears to reverse those exceptions, specifying that the order bans imports “including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU).”
The release doesn’t note a date of implementation, but ISRI indicated the policy took effect March 1.
India’s release also doesn’t get into detail on resins that will be covered by the new regulation. But the 2016 order, which is apparently being reversed, applied to most plastics under the 3915 tariff code, including PET, PE, PP, PS and more. Citing contacts in India, ISRI on March 7 confirmed these and additional resins are banned with the new order, which uses the “solid plastic waste” definition in the Basel Convention list B3010.
India has become a larger scrap plastic importer over the past two years and was among the top importers of U.S. plastic in 2018. The increase has been driven by the loss of China as a downstream outlet for U.S. scrap plastic.
U.S. year-end trade figures for 2018, released this week, show India brought in 294 million pounds of scrap plastic from the U.S. last year. That was up from 271 million pounds in 2017 and 203 million pounds in 2016.
The recent order appears similar to regulations implemented by the Chinese government. China’s import prohibitions went into effect at the start of 2018.
The new Indian regulations are being enacted “in order to strengthen the implementation of environmentally sound management of hazardous waste in the country,” the release from the India environment ministry states.
The decision was made with respect for “the principles of sustainable development and ensuring minimal impact on the environment,” the government said in the release, which also referenced India’s “Make in India” campaign to spur domestic manufacturing.
This story has been updated with additional details regarding the date of implementation of the ban and the materials covered.