New copper scrap import regulations in China will create commercial opportunities

In January 2020, the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), has approved the recategorization of high-grade copper scrap as a resource rather than waste, with no import restrictions. The new standards are very important to scrap metal traders because they lay out which copper scrap grades will be allowed to be imported into China without any restrictions or license requirements. China is the world’s biggest metal consumer and plans to ban the import of solid waste as part of its environmental initiatives. The new copper scrap categories will be implemented from 1st of July 2020.

Market Insights

The new standards set minimum copper contents ranging from 92% to 99.9% depending on product. In total there are seven categories of scrap which will be allowed to be imported. For example, bare bright copper wire must have a minimum copper content of 99.9% whereas No. 3 copper scrap nodules must have a copper content exceeding 92% Judging only from the specifications of the seven copper scrap categories, 90% of copper scrap can meet the new import standards. So, from 1st of July, all companies even those not having a special license, can supply high quality copper scrap to China. A lot of international copper scrap suppliers are getting prepared and have applied for the required documents (AQSIQ etc.) to bring copper scrap to China. Moreover, accelerated imports of copper scraps are seen for some grades due to uncertainty whether imports might be banned from 1st of July 2020.

Meanwhile more stimulus policies will be released after the recent China National People's Congress meetings in June 2020, to enhance the ‘new infrastructure construction’ and bring more incentives to the copper downstream sector. Demand for copper scrap has been on the rise. Significant volumes of copper scrap have been shipped from South East Asia (SEA) to China since May 2020. The SEA region was not as badly affected by Covid-19 which meant that scrap dismantling companies could restart their operations in countries such as Malaysia very swiftly.

In conclusion, the new Chinese import regulation are good news for international copper scrap traders. It remains to be seen how strict the Chinese customs will enforce the new rules.


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