National Sword 2017

National Sword 2017

by Dr. Steve Wong

China is determined to improve the environmental condition of its country as a result of mounting pressure from its citizens, the media and policy change.

While plastic recycling can sometimes be one of the industries responsible for pollution the government’s intention is to crackdown on all recycling operations without proper controls and facilities. This policy will become a ‘new normal’ for China in the future. Imported waste, in particular E-waste and plastic waste fractions, has been highlighted as ‘foreign waste’ and identified as an origin of severe pollution caused partly as a result of the recycling being carried out at small workshops without proper facilities. A one-year anti-smuggling campaign, becoming known as ‘National Sword 2017’ was put into action at the General Administration of Customs (GAC) meeting on 7 February with the implementation of border gate controls.

Some regard this campaign as the second ‘Green Fence’ and a few of the features that will have an impact on the business are:

  • Customs checks will be made on 100% of the import materials and this will increase the lead-time by up to four times and incur additional re-loading cost
  • Police and Environmental Protection Department will work with the China Customs to expose the use of dummy factories and the use of a ‘license of convenience’
  • Many forwarding agents have suspended operation as a result of the action. The arrest of a few customs declaration agents and importers of illegal shipments was reported on 24/2
  • Cases of shipment repatriation toloading port is seen now
  • The Environmental Protection Department is conducting high profile inspections of processing factories and the suspension of recycling operations at facilities without proper water treatment has been reported

Nationwide action has been carried out by the GAC on 24/2 and ports in Guangdong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Huangpu, Qingdao, Tianjin, Ningbo, Shanghai and Nanjing have been targeted. This crackdown has so far resulted in 15 smuggling operations being exposed, the arrest of 90 suspects and confiscation of 22,100 tons of foreign waste including E-waste, household waste and plastic waste. The GAC reported through Chinese Television media on the action conducted on the same day. It was stressed by the GAC chief Yu Guangzhou that GAC is determined to block illegal foreign waste from coming to China in order to protect the ecology and maintain peoples’ health and safety.

The future trend we believe will be to restrict imports of solid waste but allow non-polluting scraps such as recycled regrinds and pellets which can be used directly for production.

Recycling is however being encouraged and China is determined to increase the recycling rate from their own commercial and domestic waste streams including plastic packaging and WEEE and legislation is being written now for vehicles. Nevertheless the additional cost of compliance is an issue that drags down the competitiveness of bona-fide recyclers. The actions of the government will go some way to remove the unfair advantage gained by illegal operators.

By Dr. Steve Wong
Executive President, CSPA
Chairman, Fukutomi Company Limited
Committee Member, Plastics Committee of BIR
Committee Member, WEEE Committee of BIR

27 February 2017

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