Are MRF's Finished?
The threat of environmental enforcement has always been there from China, as well as a growing environmental concerns from Vietnam and more recently with pre shipment inspections for India and Indonesia. Both Mixed Paper and Mixed Plastic exports have hit the inevitable wall in China with the Green Fence policy being implemented November 30, 2013.
The MRF processing for kerbside comingled collection has always been severely flawed. Their growth has been lead by local government as a perceived cheaper collection method for zero waste into their diminishing landfills. MRF’s in theory encourage participation, but ignores the massive volume of prohibitive or household junk that is actually returned to landfill at the expense of the sorting plant owner and of course those large integrated groups who have deep pockets.
The Chinese ban is applied at a time when newspaper consumption continues to plummet. USA was reported to be down 12% in February from the same month last year and 2% for P&W Papers: a total of 14%. It is now difficult to find newsprint in an American ONP bale. This decrease exposes a higher combination of outthrows and prohibitives resulting in most ONP supply to be downgraded to Soft Mixed. Australasia is heading in the same direction with ONP averaging 50%  with many MRF`s offering out ONP without a definition to avoid responsibility and to transfer all risk. For independent exporters who are often forced to absorb quality claims, any short term ban will be welcomed to reverse the MRF monopoly back to consumer education for source separation.
China to their credit have had a strict inspection and export/import licence structure, however due to both Customs corruption and their own self inspection loop hole for larger groups has allowed contaminated materials to enter China either via Hong Kong or mainland ports. Chinese Customs are now inspecting fifty bales from every consignment. If prohibitives exceed 1.5% the shipment is returned to origin and not to another country. No MRF is below 2.5% with most 5-8% +++.
The forthcoming May 30 Asian Conference in Shanghai has now included a session on the Green Fence. Those mainly Chinese exporters who have self inspection will also be included in the stricter inspection. Spain and Italy are most likely the ones who have brought this flawed process to a head by shipping unsorted residential Mixed to then sort the more valuable metal and plastics in China which is contrary to the Basel Convention.
With Ramadan falling before the November 100% inspection date there will be some panic around June and July when there are few if any alternative destinations for residential Mixed. Mixed wastes are already backing up in March at Chinese ports and Waste Management in America already have 1000 loaded containers without a home. Who is prepared to risk having shipments returned to sender.