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BIR: Green Fence causing 'panic'

Shippers of recyclables to China are starting to panic at the impact of the country’s ‘green fence’ policy, according to the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).

The BIR said the new restrictions on contaminated recyclate had seen containers piling up at Chinese ports or even being returned.

The policy, in place since February, rigorously enforces the 2009 regulations, which were not always previously strictly applied.

A BIR spokesman told MRW: “This sudden enforcement of the legislation (particularly in southern China) has taken by surprise many shippers who were not always well aware of the details of the legislation.

“The customs have started to regularly open the containers upon arrival causing serious problems, such as containers piling up and containers being returned to senders, to such an extent that people started panicking about the costs and have decided to suspend delivery to China or to find other outlets for their materials.”

As MRW recently reported, a Chinese official has been noted as telling the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries convention in America that the policy would end in November.

Crackdown ‘psychological’ warning

Wang Jiwei secretary-general of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association said the random inspections involved were partly “psychological” to warn off excessively contaminated shipments.  

But some UK recyclers think the policy is here to stay and the industry must adapt.

Eco Plastics managing director Jonathan Short said: “My question would be - why would it end?

“The Chinese are simply are not going to accept the high levels of rubbish hidden in so-called recyclate being supplied by the western world, and in particular the back door route from Hong Kong into China.”

The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London told MRW that the ‘green fence’, “does not involve Hong Kong and the waste import and export control of Hong Kong is different from mainland China”.

‘Market must respond’

Paul Briggs, managing director of Mark Lyndon Paper Enterprises, said: “I think the ‘green fence’ is good. Only a few cowboys will be not cleaning up their material to meet it.

“I don’t think this will go away, and the market will have to respond. Those that think it is temporary are wrong.”

Briggs said he had already seen improvements such as firms that formerly stored paper and card in the open now using tarpaulins to try to avoid moisture contamination, which would lead to rejection in China.

WRAP said mixed polymer and mixed HDPE prices “have fallen in recent weeks on greater Chinese enforcement, though other recovered plastic grade prices are stable.”

Environmental Services Association recycling policy advisor Jakob Rindegren said: “The Chinese authorities are entitled to set the import standards they see as appropriate, and we particularly welcome any measures which will crack down on illegal shipments.

“At the same time, China’s high levels of growth and strong demand for resources are likely to continue for some time yet, which means that exports of recyclate to China will have a role to play.”

The British Metals Recycling Association declined to comment.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Bernard Chase

    The fact that it has taken the actions of the Chinese authorities to convince our Waste Management Sector that quality is in fact a virtue and that disguising waste as recyclable material is in reality a disgrace must surely be an indictment upon the UK’s own regulatory bodies.
    This issue is not simply about the export of commodities, we are after all an exporting nation, rather it is about the form in which we ship these commodities.
    As the recent disaster in Bangladesh demonstrates, low cost expedients do not always result in good outcomes.
    I agree with Jonathan Short and others who quite rightly ask “why should it end”. I would go further, however, and say that we should ensure it does not end as result of our own actions rather than those of our customers. From now on we must accept full responsibility for our waste, extend an environmental duty of care to our customers and treat our ‘recyclable’ material safely and efficiently in our own country before we export clean segregated and highly valuable raw material to an eager global market with full confidence in the quality of our product and without the least vestige of guilt.
    Bernard Chase
    Regain Polymers Limited

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