A Chinese official has told recyclers in the US that Operation Green Fence will only last for the next seven months, it has been reported.
The operation was launched by Chinese authorities over concerns of the amount of imported recyclate shipments that exceed existing contamination limits.
A number of shipments have already been seized at Chinese ports and UK recycling industry figures have voiced concerns that prices are falling as a result.
The secretary-general of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, Wang Jiwei, reportedly told delegates at an Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries convention in the US that the operation, which started in February, was set to end in November.
He said the random inspections were partly “psychological” to warn exporters off sending excessively contaminated shipments.
But Eco Plastics managing director Jonathan Short indicated some scepticism that the operation would end.
“There has been various rumours around a ‘potential’ deadline date for the Green Fence policy from three months to ten months and beyond,” he said.
“My question would be - why would it end at all? The Chinese are simply being more rigorous in applying existing legislation. They 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.”
He added that the crackdown so far has had a “limited impact” on Eco Plastics’ China exports because the company is AQSIQ accredited.
“High quality material will always sell, and attract the best price, anywhere in the world,” he said. “China will continue to be a huge consumer of the West’s recyclate, including plastic, but with a focus on a ‘product’ rather than waste.”
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, said Green Fence would “undoubtedly” have a long-term psychological effect on the industry.
He added: “The industry as a whole now recognises that quality has to be at the top of the agenda, and ultimately it is a no brainer – the better the quality, the greater the number of applications, outlets and, probably, prices.
“Ultimately, I think the industry will be in a better shape as a result. However if the Chinese want to continue to run their mills, they will need raw materials. The UK alone provides 10% of China’s OCC [old corrugated cardboard] requirements for example, so if the Chinese continue to make supplies difficult, and the UK are not alone in their experiences here, where is the material going to come from to feed their mills?”