By: Hamish Champ
November 26, 2013
Members of the United Kingdom's recycling community said they did not expect the imminent dismantling of China's Green Fence to radically alter Beijing's approach to waste imports.
The barrier, created in February, was designed to block low-quality imports of waste material into the country, yet recyclers in the UK do not believe there will be any significant shift towards an open door policy on the part of the Chinese.
Bernard Chase, purchasing director at Regain Polymers, said that once the quality of materials offered to the Chinese reprocessing markets improved to the point that broadly equivalent standards and TransFrontier Shipment regulations were "genuinely adhered to" then the appetite of the Chinese markets for UK recyclable materials would grow again.
"The Green Fence was in effect a draconian inspection regime designed to eradicate the import of low grade/hazardous materials and, on the understanding that the quality message has now been heard and clearly understood, it is this which is now being relaxed," Chase said.
Provided improved standards of imports were maintained, trade flows should begin to grow again, he added.
Chase said the move was not a green light to return to the "bad old days and that once again anything goes. If traders think it is they will be in for an unpleasant surprise and fence will descend again very quickly."
Chris Dow, managing director of Closed Loop Recycling, said recent developments in the UK meant the fence would be of little consequence anyway.
"We believe that with the MRF code of practice in place and robust enforcement of the waste shipping regulations the Green Fence will be of little relevance to the UK recycling industry.
"But in the meantime it provides a meaningful constraint on illegal waste exports."
The British Plastics Federation said in a statement: "We haven't seen any official notification of a relaxation of the restriction. If it were to happen it probably wouldn't be a wholesale rolling back. It might possibly take the form of maintaining a high standard, but a less rigorous inspection regime.
"Once we see an official notification we will be in a better position to comment."