SHENZHEN, CHINA — China's Green Fence rules and regulations regarding the import of scrap materials will prove to be a “long-term” boon for the recycling industry while cutting down on China's pollution problem, the executive president of the China Scrap Plastic Association said earlier this month at the group's semiannual event.
“This is good for China from an environmental point of view,” Steve C.K. Wong told Plastics News in an exclusive interview at China Replas 2014 Autumn in Shenzhen.
Scrap imports tumbled 3 percent last year, as industry players sought their footing in the first full year of Green Fence, Wong said. But imports have recovered and are now running ahead about 5 percent this year.
Wong also serves as the founder and managing director of Hong Kong-based recycler and molder Fukutomi Co. Ltd.
The regulation and enforcement regime has ushered in industry-wide changes.
Much scrap is being diverted to Southeast Asian countries for preliminary washing and sorting before being sent on to the mainland, Wong said, while Hong Kong has dramatically emerged as a key entrepôt.
“We see more scrap being imported through Hong Kong to Guangdong [province]. In fact, that represents more than half the total imports,” Wong said.
With its well-established logistics infrastructure, Hong Kong dealers are consolidating and, when necessary, doing some preliminary processing of scrap before shipping across the border to the Pearl River Delta.
Dotting all your i's and crossing all your t's is critical under Green Fence, said John Carapetis, co-founder and director of Hong Kong-based scrap plastics and electronics trader Vanden Global Ltd. “We have all the licenses. We're not shipping things we're not supposed to be shipping.”
More change is afoot, as local government inspectors, armed with new enforcement powers, shut down rogue recyclers and herd legitimate players into recycling industrial parks.
In fact, “Green Fence” is something of a misnomer, as the dual-pronged approach includes not just customs officials cracking down on banned scrap and smugglers — the “fence” — but tighter internal regulation and enforcement.
“The action now is with the Ministry of Environment. [It's] inspecting lots of recyclers — making sure they have the proper documents, are complying with health and safety regulations, are doing water treatment right,” Wong said. “They're actually targeting a lot of small operators and cracking down on illegal operators.”
The stringent Green Fence has been a boon to at least one group — suppliers of fully recycled plastics. “For us, it's better,” said Marco Fedrigo of Udine, Italy-based Ideal Service, which sells thermoplastic polyoelfin pellets under the PoliNova label. “They're restricting scrap, but we sell raw materials.”