Statement on Operation Green Fence
In February 2013, the Chinese government began restricting the import of mixed recyclables, including fiber, metal, and plastic. Known as "Operation Green Fence," this is an effort to more vigorously inspect and reject what officials consider to be non-recyclable, contaminated, or low value materials. As a result, China is currently not accepting mixed plastic containers made from plastic resins #3 - #7, which represent less than one percent of the total quantity of materials residents recycle in the Pacific Northwest. These materials are typically non-bottle plastics, such as deli trays or "clam shells." Operation Green Fence has not affected fiber and metal recycling processed by Waste Management.
Since Operation Green Fence launched in February, Waste Management has not landfilled any of these materials. Markets have been sporadic and intermittent. When available, we have shipped materials to these emerging markets. As needed, we have stored bales of marginal plastics while awaiting market availability. Other more common recyclable plastic materials such as milk jugs, soda bottles and soap jugs are not impacted by China's new program and have strong domestic and international markets.
Operation Green Fence is yet another reminder that sustainable recycling requires consistent, available markets for collected materials, so that collected materials can be made back into new products and packaging. Operation Green Fence may or may not be temporary but Waste Management will continue to seek viable, sustainable markets for all the materials we collect. If we continue to find that these low value plastics do not have markets for making them into new products or packaging, we will work to develop a unified regional strategy.