China’s new campaign to tackle illegal imports of waste has the backing of the Recycling Association (RA), despite fears it could herald the “chaos” seen during Operation Green Fence four years ago.
According to the Chinese, the National Sword initiative involves four agencies in a task force making “strenuous efforts” to oversee solid waste imported from shipments, customs checks and the final destination of the material for recycling.
It will be in place until November, with the aim of cracking down on all illegal activities involving foreign waste.
Simon Ellin, RA chief executive (pictured above in China), told MRW he “wholly welcomed” the initiative because it matched its ‘Quality First’ campaign in focusing on responsibility throughout the supply chain.
For the UK recycling industry to be sustainable, he said, it had to comply with the catalogue of solid wastes forbidden to be imported into China along with UK standards for paper and plastic.
“The industry knows the standards we have to work to and we know the limits on out-throw in China so, as long as we work within them, we will have no problems.
“China wants to work with the UK and vice versa and they need our recycled materials, so they do not want to put up a barrier to trade. However, they do not and should not accept substandard feedstocks and this is what National Sword is all about.
“The onus needs to be on the full supply chain, not just the operators who collect and process material for export – it is wrong that the onus and responsibility for illegal shipments is on the operator.”
But Ellin feared that National Sword might bring problems.
“When Green Fence was implemented, it was chaotic in the early days because staff at the Chinese ports were not sufficiently trained to tell the difference between compliant and non-compliant materials – we hope this is not the case this time.
“My other concern is that Chinese buyers, quite rightly, will cherry-pick material. They will not want to run the risk of having material returned to the UK. My concern then is the downward pressure on overall prices this can bring because it is Chinese demand which largely dictates UK prices.”