Baled fiber stacked for recycling.

So far this year China has approved 3.5 million short tons of recovered fiber for import. | luca pbl/Shutterstock

China recently issued its third round of recovered fiber import permits for 2020, and the volume being allowed in this round is far less than what was approved previously.

China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment on Feb. 5 published a list allowing 25,000 short tons to be imported. That’s down from 449,000 short tons in the previous batch of permits release and 3.07 million in the first batch of the year.

All told, the country has approved 3.5 million short tons for import this year. By this time last year, China had approved 6.1 million short tons.

Fiber research firm RISI (subscription required) has reported that industry insiders expect the Chinese government will issue permits totalling 7.7 million short tons this year, down from 12.1 million short tons in 2019.

That forecast would mean the government has already issued nearly half the entire volume for the year.

The latest permits come as trade figures show China importing fewer and fewer shipments of recovered fiber from all countries. The U.S., in particular, sent substantially less material to the country in 2019.

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