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China cracking down on waste imports

Keywords: Tags  China scrap, exports, imports, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Nathan Laliberte

NEW YORK — China is taking a harder line on imports of solid waste, with shipments facing increased scrutiny and supervision from Chinese customs officials, sources have told AMM.

"They are calling it ‘Operation Green Fence,’" a Chinese importer said. "Beginning (this month), they told us that things would be much stricter. There are different standards for every port of entry, but they have made it very clear that if the material is no good, they will reject it. They are very serious about it."

The current restrictions date back to a 2006 report issued by China’s State Environmental Protection Administration listing banned items found in nonferrous scrap, including "radioactive wastes, explosive arms and ammunitions, such as discarded bombs and shells, wastes containing polychlorinated biphenyls, and other wastes listed in the National Catalogue of Hazardous Wastes."

The restrictions were well known to U.S. exporters but loosely enforced by Chinese customs officials, sources said.

"We asked them about updated restrictions and they said there were no new laws," one exporter said. "Basically, they are stepping up enforcement of the old laws. It’s definitely going to increase the cost of getting metal to China."

One Chinese importer told clients in an e-mail to "please make sure all solid scrap materials ... strictly meet (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries) standards and (China Certification & Inspection Group Co. Ltd.) regulations," reminding them that they cannot be mixed with any prohibited items.

"I have been told that if they open up the loads and they find restricted material, such as circuit boards, they will send the loads back to the U.S.," a second exporter told AMM. "It used to be that if you were shipping to northern China, restricted material was an issue, but if you went through other ports, namely in southern China, you could get around the restrictions. As of two weeks ago, that is no longer the case."

"I have shipped consistently every week to the same Chinese customer for nine years—alternators and starters," a third exporter said March 13. "We got a comment this morning that the material was dirty, greased up. It was the same material they have always gotten. They have been taking it all this time, and now they are changing how material is being received."

Customs officials also require exporters to send detailed images of containers and materials prior to shipment.

"They told us that the pictures have to be perfectly clear and the date has to match up with the picture of the load," the second exporter said. "People used to ship lower-grade material and try to get away with it. Now they are really putting their foot down on junk. ... They just don’t want it anymore."

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