Clearing the Fence

May 8, 2013
RTGE Staff

Recyclers and brokers of recovered fibre in Europe and North America continue to compete vigorously for the material being generated, and now also face increased hurdles in selling into the world’s largest consuming market.

In late winter and early spring, shippers of secondary commodities into China have slowly begun to learn more about “Operation Green Fence,” an effort by Chinese environmental and customs officials to more vigorously inspect (and more willingly reject) what they consider to be sub-par container loads.

At a session called the “U.S.-China Scrap Trade Consult Meeting” at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) Convention on April 12, Wang Jiwei, vice president and secretary-general of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association Recycling Metal Branch (CMRA), referred to Operation Green Fence as a 10-month effort by China’s national customs agency “to strengthen the supervision” of environmental standards.

According to Wang, the Green Fence initiative runs from February to November 2013 that will focus on random inspection of all forms of “imported waste,” meaning metallic, plastic, textile, rubber and paper scrap materials.

Wang said the initiative did not involve new regulations, but that it “strengthens Article 12,” which was issued in April 2011. (That article states, “In the process of importing solid waste, measures shall be taken to prevent it from spread[ing] seepage and leakage or other measures to prevent pollution of [the] environment.”)

He said the intention of Operation Green Fence is in part “psychological,” to make shippers know China will “strictly examine the import application and [consider whether] to approve the import license” of shippers who are caught sending sub-standard material.

If the focus is actually on liquids and moisture, it would seem to be of concern most directly to shippers of commingled, post-consumer fibre packed in material recovery facilities (MRFs) that may include higher levels of residual liquids

An Asia-based broker who represents secondary fibre generated in both North America and Europe says he has found Chinese customs officials paying greater attention to shipments coming from Europe compared to North America.

In his presentation, the CMRA’s Wang showed photos of inbound containers whose shortcomings went beyond liquid contamination. Problems presented included living mice, bullets and combustible flares included in a container load of juice boxes.

Speaking at a different ISRI Convention session, Liu Shengming of the China Certification & Inspection Group (CCIC) noted that the number of containers filled with scrap materials continued to grow from 2010 to 2012.

Liu said that North America sent 698,000 containers filled with scrap materials to China in 2012, up from 635,000 in 2011. Only 0.04% of those containers were found to be “unqualified,” according to Liu. Recovered fibre was the foremost commodity shipped.