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Green Fence principles remain, says Bloomberg specialist Minter

A leading observer of China’s recycling industry says last year’s Green Fence operation will have a lasting impact on both the import and export trade for secondary materials and the country’s internal economy.

Adam Minter, below, Shanghai correspondent with Bloomberg World View, says the quality crackdown which lasted from February until November 2013 has had a profound effect inside the country.

“This one really scared people and there is a sense things have changed. I don’t think we are ever going to return what we had in say January 2013. Things are going to be tighter,” he told MRW.

Adam Minter

Minter, in an exclusive interview, said two key elements of Green Fence were that it was primarily aimed at plastics and was intended mostly for the domestic marketplace.

A key goal, according to Minter, was to eliminate small plastic recyclers operating in grim conditions such as Wen’an, an area of Hebei province he referred to as “the pits of the pits” and “the worst place I’ve ever seen”.

One new requirement last year, he said, was that any importer of scrap had to process it themselves.

“The importer must be the processor which means you can no longer broker out this scrap to the smaller workshops you see in Wen’an. You have less incentive to import and it blocked off these tiny processors.”

Minter says the move favoured bigger operators who were easier to regulate and more likely to have Government connections. 

Even though he believes there will not be a return to pre-Green Fence standards, he says there has been “a loosening” because of less political pressure currently on the agencies involved.

“I talk to a lot of metal recyclers and they say they are getting in stuff they couldn’t get in for the last nine months, such as mixed grades. I think it’s a little too early to know what the net effect is going to be”. 

Minter’s new book, Junkyard Planet, was published by Bloomsbury on 16 January.

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