By Tom Daly
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's environment ministry issued quotas on Monday for just below 550,000 tonnes of scrap metal imports for 2020, part of Beijing's campaign to cut inbound waste to zero.
The China Solid Waste and Chemicals Management Bureau, which is part of the ministry, published import allowances for 270,885 tonnes of high-grade copper scrap and 275,465 tonnes of aluminum scrap in the first batch of quotas for use next year.
By the end of 2020, China aims to have a system in place to ensure there are no more imports of scrap metal classified as waste.
The quotas are being closely tracked by traders amid concerns top metals consumer China, which tightened restrictions on scrap metal imports for environmental reasons from July, is leaving itself short of a key source of supplies.
China now classes scrap metal as a solid waste. But changes will be introduced by the second quarter of 2020 at the latest, so high-grade copper and aluminum scrap meeting new standards will no longer be classed as waste and can be imported in unlimited amounts.
But, for now, companies will need to secure quota allowances from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment to import scrap.
The initial 2020 copper scrap and aluminum scrap import quotas, which have mainly been awarded to companies in the major recycling hubs of Zhejiang and Guangdong, are the largest batch issued by the ministry since June.
Tighter restrictions came into force on July 1.
The quotas issued since June for use in 2019 totaled more than 560,000 tonnes of copper scrap and almost 474,000 tonnes of aluminum scrap, according to Reuters calculations.
(Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Edmund Blair)