Despite a difficult 2013, plastic recyclers are confident their industry is a vital part of the manufacturing sector in China.
For plastics recyclers and manufacturers in China who depend on plastic scrap, 2013 is likely to be remembered as a year when Operation Green Fence caused severe difficulties.
In a presentation at the RePlas 2013 Autumn event in Hangzhou, China, a Mr. Lu of the Tianjin Price Information Service noted that the slowdown at ports caused by the implementation of Operation Green Fence was one reason why China’s plastic scrap imports dropped from 790,000 tons in January to 480,000 tons in February.
There was some bounce-back to 610,000 tons in March, Lu noted, but the restricted flow of plastic scrap into Chinese ports caused both overseas exporters and Chinese manufacturers to look for alternatives.
Lu commented that some of these exporters have begun shipping plastic scrap to Malaysia or Vietnam, where it is processed into flakes or pellets that can then be shipped into China with less scrutiny.
Surendra Borad, chairman of Belgium-based Gemini Corp. offered a presentation at RePlas 2013 Autumn titled “European Plastics Recycling Industry in the Post-Green Fence Era.” Borad also chairs the Plastics Division of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), Brussels.
Borad, after commenting that Green Fence “will benefit the Chinese recycling industry in the long run” and “is in the best interest of the users of reprocessed plastics,” said that despite the 2013 disruptions caused by Green Fence, plastic recycling is poised to grow.
Citing a study by Finnish consulting firm Pöyry, Borad said worldwide demand for recovered plastics was 15 million metric tons in 2007, has risen to a projected 42 million metric tons in 2013 and is forecast to zoom to 85 million metric tons in 2020.
“We are talking about a figure of $40 billion in seven years – an impressive increase from 2013 to 2020,” Borad stated.
China will remain a vital part of that global picture, said Borad. “China, including Hong Kong, is currently importing about 9 million metric tons of scrap and there is domestic collection of 13 million metric tons,” he remarked. “CBI China estimates that Chinese demand for recovered plastics could reach 29 million metric tons by 2015.”
RePlas 2013 Autumn was Nov. 6-8 at New World Century Grand Hotel in Hangzhou, China.