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China ports said overreacting on scrap rules

Keywords: Tags  scrap, China, CCIC, AQSIQ, Green Fence, scrap imports, scrap exports, Wang Jiwei Sean Davidson

NEW YORK — China’s push to enforce rules on imports of certain recycled and waste products is focusing primarily on trade activities at major coastal ports and the provinces of Anhui, Hubei, Hunan and Jiangzi, according to an industry group.

The enforcement effort—dubbed "Operation Green Fence" by market participants—is aimed at ensuring that businesses operate legally. It could affect some small businesses, but the impact for the overall industry is more psychological because most are already observing the rules, according to officials at the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association Recycling Metal Branch (CMRA).

Although Chinese Customs and Ministry of Environmental Protection officials are simply adhering to the rule book, some ports have overreacted with their own interpretation of the rules, which has affected some businesses’ operations, according to CMRA vice president and secretary-general Wang Jiwei.

The enforcement effort has affected flows of scrap metal, among other materials, into China, with customs officials in Shanghai reportedly announcing April 11 that they had found and confiscated 6,000 tonnes of "smuggled mineral waste residue" since the initiative’s launch in February, CMRA said.

The group stressed that Green Fence is not an introduction of new regulations but an enforcement of existing ones.

Of the 6,000 tonnes of waste that was confiscated in Shanghai, 115 tonnes were made up of "smuggled waste (tires) that came from West Asia and East Europe" and carried arsenic and cadmium contaminants that were well above standard, CMRA delegates told U.S. scrap industry members at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ recent annual convention in Orlando, Fla.

Chinese Customs officials are carrying out the enforcement exercise until November in order to strengthen supervision of imported solid waste in the nation’s fight against "foreign garbage smuggling," Jiwei said.

Chinese authorities are focusing on rules laid out in two notices introduced several years ago, according to market sources. The first notice, issued by China’s State Environmental Protection Administration in 2006, listed items banned from nonferrous scrap, including "radioactive wastes, explosive arms and ammunition, such as discarded bombs and shells, wastes containing polychlorinated biphenyls, and other wastes listed in the National Catalogue of Hazardous Wastes" (, March 13).

The second notice, published March 29, 2010, contained rules pertaining to the import of loose scrap materials. The Bureau of International Recycling told its members April 16 that the full impact of the 2010 rules—which are said to aim for a ban on all loose loads of scrap metal shipped to China—is still unclear.

Jiwei said the Chinese government still supports the import of scrap waste and "actively promotes recycling resource industrialization," but there are environmental consequences to importing waste that enforcement will address.

The quality of imported recycling material apparently has varied significantly, with inspections uncovering and consequently disqualifying imported containers that were found to contain mice, advertising fliers, excessive radiation, and flammable and explosive materials.

Jiwei said there had been several reported cases of false and concealed materials, false invoicing and other practices banned under Chinese law. The materials being tracked are scrap metals, scrap plastic, scrap paper and scrap textiles, he said.

Authorities will closely examine import license applications and conduct several spot examinations on importing businesses. The spot checks will target at least 20 percent of the total enterprises present in key trading regions, and at least 10 percent of all businesses operating in other regions, according to Jiwei.

China also will work to strengthen interdepartmental coordination between the China Certification & Inspection Group and China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, he said.

During inspections, customs officials will strictly implement environmental protection control standards that require, among other things, the amount of mixed weight sundries to be less than 2 percent and hazardous wastes to be less than 0.01 percent.

Officials also will strictly enforce stipulations for the classification of shipments, and scrap metals cannot be loaded in the same container with non-key solid waste as the goods do not belong to solid waste, CMRA said.

The inspections will make the time for clearance longer and decrease the turnover rate of current capital, the association said, and suggested that importers and exporters reach mutual understandings "to share the pressure together."

Chinese media reports last year shed light on some bad import practices.

CMRA said one such report by a local news agency said 55,000 fliers were found in shipments of juice boxes from the United States, which take "100 years to degrade and will produce harmful gas." Another report said that millions of tons of household rubbish already sorted by families for recycling was being shipped to such countries as China, India and Indonesia, with most of the waste ending up in landfills.

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