The Court of International Trade ruled recently that certain recycling machines are properly classified as crushing, grinding, or screening machines under HTSUS 8479.82.00 (duty-free) rather than as other machines having individual functions under HTSUS 8479.89.95 (2.5 percent duty).

The items at issue are two specific models of large industrial recycling machines that reduce solid waste material of various kinds, including plastic, paper, wood, and solid waste. Waste material is loaded into an infeed hopper and falls to a horizontal plate at the bottom of the inside of the machine, where a hydraulic ram pushes it at high pressure toward a cutting rotor that exerts significant force as it spins to reduce the size of the material. Further processes reduce the size of the material even more and the final product passes through a screen.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection had argued that these machines’ principal function is cutting or shredding, processes not included within the description of HTSUS 8479.89.94. However, the CIT found that crushing (according to its common and commercial meaning) occurs at two points where the machines squeeze material between opposing bodies (even though some of those bodies have cutting surfaces) and exert “very hard” pressure that results in the destruction of the material by reducing it to pieces. The court also ruled that the machines function as grinding machines because they chop material into small pieces or fine particles by means of sharp metal blades. The court rejected CBP’s argument that the end result of crushing and grinding needs to be pieces of a particularly small size.

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