Thailand portA Thai policy restricting the import of scrap plastics has proved effective. U.S. scrap plastic exports to the country dropped by 94 percent after the ban took hold.

U.S. exporters sent 1.5 million pounds of recovered plastic to Thailand in July, the most recent month for which statistics are available. That’s a substantial decline from the 27.1 million pounds the U.S. shipped to Thailand in June, as well as the 41.6 million pounds sent in May.

The latest export figures were released last week by the U.S. government.

Plastics down but paper rises

Thai authorities in late June announced they would halt scrap plastic imports amid a rising volume of material stuck at ports. In late August, the government described plans to make the ban permanent within two years.

Overall, U.S. exporters sent 203.1 million pounds of scrap plastic to Thailand from January through July, up from 15.5 million pounds during that period in 2017.

The July 2018 figure is by far the lowest volume shipped from the U.S. to Thailand this year.

Meanwhile, U.S. recovered paper exports to Thailand in July increased to their highest monthly volume for the year. The country brought in 54,000 short tons of recovered paper in July, up from 37,000 short tons in June and well above its average of 32,000 tons per month for the January-July 2018 period.

Even with the increase, Thailand still imports just a fraction of the volume of recovered paper consumed by China.

Plastics elsewhere in the region

Vietnam and China both imported their lowest U.S.-sourced plastics volumes of the year in July.

Vietnam brought in 3.1 million pounds, down from 10.2 million pounds in June and significantly down from 38.9 million pounds in May. The drop accompanied growing interest by the Vietnamese government in restricting scrap plastic flowing into the country. Officials in July announced they would stop issuing new scrap import licenses.

China imported 5.5 million pounds of scrap plastic from the U.S. in July. It’s the lowest volume of the year and is down from the 7.3 million pounds shipped to China the previous month. Overall, China imported an average of 10.3 million pounds of scrap plastic from the U.S. per month during the January-July period.

Other Southeast Asian nations stayed fairly consistent in their U.S.-sourced imports in July.

Malaysia imported 52.5 million pounds of U.S. scrap plastic, close to its 2018 monthly average of 56.1 million pounds. Taiwan brought in 13 million pounds from the U.S., near its average of 10.1 million pounds per month. India imported 24.7 million pounds, on par with its monthly average of 25.5 million pounds. Indonesia received 4 million pounds, up slightly from its average of 3.2 million pounds per month this year.

Singapore, which has varied widely in its imports throughout the year, received 117,000 pounds from the U.S. in July, up slightly from its June volume of 99,000 pounds but down from its average of 212,000 pounds per month. Much of the material that moves into Singapore is re-exported to other Southeast Asian countries.

July paper export trends

On the fiber side, China imported its lowest volume of U.S. recovered fiber for the year. The country, which is still by far the largest importer of scrap paper from the U.S. despite its recent restrictions, brought in 486,000 short tons in July, down from 708,000 tons in June.

Like Thailand, a number of Southeast Asian nations brought in their highest monthly volume of scrap paper for the year in July. Vietnam imported 122,000 short tons of U.S. scrap paper, well up from its year-to-date average of 76,000 tons per month. Taiwan brought in 95,000 short tons, above its year-to-date average of 58,000. Malaysia imported its largest volume by far, bringing in 24,000 short tons compared with 10,000 in June and an average of 3,000 per month from January through May.

India stayed on par with its June imports, bringing in 271,000 short tons compared to 276,000 in June. Indonesia imported 122,000 short tons during July, down from its June high of 136,000 tons but still well up from its January through May imports, which averaged 71,000 tons per month.

Similar to its plastics imports, Singapore’s recovered paper import figures have fluctuated throughout the year. In July, the country imported just 275 short tons of scrap paper.

Photo credit: joachim affeldt/Shutterstock

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