What You Need to Know About China’s Waste Import Restrictions

In 2017 and 2018, the Chinese government implemented a series of waste import restrictions limiting or banning a variety of recyclable material that had previously been accepted for processing. The restriction of the flow of materials has created new challenges throughout the supply chain of scrap—residents, solid waste departments, material recovery facilities (MRFs), processors, end users and beyond. This webpage provides an overview of these challenges and provides updates on SWANA’s efforts to help support North American recycling through this transition.

NPR’s On Point — Global Recycling Is A Dumpster Fire. Literally

Listen to SWANA CEO & Executive Director David Biderman’s interview with Megan Chakrabarti on NPR’S On Point on March 14, 2019.

EPA America Recycles Day Summit & Pledge

America Recycles Day 2018 Pledge

On America Recycles Day 2018 (November 15), SWANA participated in a Recycling Summit where EPA and dozens of other key stakeholders signed a pledge to commit to work together to improve the state of the recycling system in the United States.

SWANA is working to help fulfill this pledge through the development of EPA’s Framework for Advancing America’s Recycling System over the course of 2019. These efforts are focused on (1) education and outreach, (2) enhancing materials management infrastructure, (3) strengthening secondary materials markets, and (4) enhancing measurement.

You can watch the full Recycling Summit, including remarks by SWANA CEO & Executive Director David Biderman, below.

Recycling Industry Unites with Goal of Addressing Key Issues

SWANA is a member of a coalition representing various segments of the recycling industry working to advance the industry as a whole in light of the changes facing recycling. This group meets per the following statement of cooperation:

As representatives of the complete recycling chain, we understand that improving the quality of the recycling stream and increasing the demand for recyclables in the manufacture of new products will deliver economic and environmental benefits nationwide. We commit to actively engaging with one another to enhance the nation’s recycling systems, while simultaneously continuing our own organizations’ work to influence change.

  • The Aluminum Association
  • American Chemistry Council
  • American Forest & Paper Association
  • Ameripen
  • The Association of Plastic Recyclers
  • Glass Packaging Institute
  • Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.
  • Keep America Beautiful
  • National Recycling Coalition
  • National Waste & Recycling Association
  • Northeast Recycling Council
  • Paper Recycling Coalition
  • Plastics Industry Association
  • The Recycling Partnership
  • Southeast Recycling Development Council
  • Steel Recycling Institute
  • Solid Waste Association of North America
  • Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Support for Recycling within the Congressional Infrastructure Package

SWANA and other organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership urging that recycling be considered in any infrastructure package.

plastics industry association
american chemistry council
flexible packaging association
association of plastic recyclers
carpet america recovery effort
foodservice packaging institute
national waste and recycling association
institute of scrap recycling industries, inc.
the recycling partnership
packaging consortium
solid waste association of north america

SWANA Resources: China Waste Import Restrictions Infographics

Download printable infographics in exchange for contact information.


A timeline of Chinese waste initiatives from 2013-2018

A timeline of Chinese waste initiatives from 2013–2018.

How to Take Action

Action items for local governments and recycling managers

Action items for local governments and recycling managers.

Materials Affected

Most common recycling materials affected by the China waste import restrictions

Most common recycling materials affected by the China waste import restrictions.

Recycling Infrastructure

Most common recycling materials affected by the China waste import restrictions

U.S. Recycling: Building America’s infrastructure through sustainability.

In the News: China Waste Import Restrictions

WasteDive 50 State Survey

Connex boxes with Chinese stars superimposed

A state-by-state breakdown on how China's new import policies are affecting recycling markets.

Media Kit

China map with recycling logo

Download SWANA’s China Waste Import Restrictions Media Kit in exchange for contact information.

Green fence blends into China flag

From Green Fence to Red Alert: A China Timeline

Timeline of events surrounding the Chinese import policies and how they continue to reshape materials recovery around the planet.