In a recent letter from Vietnam’s Tan Cang-Cai Mep International Terminal (TCIT) that was obtained and shared by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), it was announced that the terminal was stockpiling scrap materials and, as a result, will temporarily stop accepting all containers of scrap plastic and paper from June 25 through October 15, 2018.
One of Vietnam’s largest shipping terminals, Tan Cang-Cat Lai, cannot accept the stockpiled materials from the smaller terminal due to its own backlog of containers. It has already temporarily stopped accepting scrap materials because of this “overcapacity.”
The letter says that “in order to maintain service quality and facilitate import-export activities of all enterprises,” TCIT has also established new restrictions on imports. Terminals will now require shipments to be accompanied by valid import permits as well as a written statement of when the buyer will pick up the container.
Vietnam is experiencing a build-up of containers of recovered paper and plastic scrap that have been diverted from China due to China’s new import bans and strict contamination limits, and the volume of materials is causing major delays at Vietnam’s import terminals.
Though exporters of scrap materials have found new markets in Southeast Asia since China announced its National Sword policies, these markets still cannot keep up with the amount being imported. With Vietnam’s four-month ban, it is likely that more materials will now be diverted to India and Indonesia. However, these markets are not equipped to handle the amount of materials previously imported into China, making them unsuitable for long-term solutions.
The announcement of Vietnam’s temporary ban may further encourage countries to find domestic markets for their recyclables and to improve recycling infrastructure. ISRI notes that it is “confident this is more to do with port capacity constraints and not a permanent regulatory shift,” but the ban in Vietnam could also remain past October 15.
In the United States, thousands of tons of collected curbside recyclables have been going to landfill as a result of China’s import bans. Especially in the west, many local municipalities have stopped accepting certain items for recycling – communities are now directed to throw away most plastic, glass and mixed paper materials. With Vietnam’s new announcement, perhaps the best thing the United States can do is increase consumer educational campaigns, establish enforcement methods for recycling materials or reduce some recycling programs to prevent material buildup.