China’s plastic recycling rate falls to 22 percent

Annual recycling rate in 2013 plunges from 29 percent in 2012.

July 7, 2014

China’s manufacturers consumed some 13.6 million metric tons of plastic scrap in 2013, marking a 14.5 percent decrease in volume compared to the 16 million metric tons consumed the year before.

Jason Wang, general secretary of China Scrap Plastics Association (CSPA), wrote to CSPA members in July 2014 to update them on a press conference held by China’s Ministry of Commerce as well as to review figures published in the China National Resources Recycling Association’s “The Renewable Resources Industry Development Report of China,” covering events in 2013.

At the press event, Wang said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang “indicated that because of macroeconomic factors the recycling industry is under [an] adjustment period [and] the market has not fully recovered.”

Wang says the China National Resources Recycling Association report indicates “there are over 100,000 institutions with 18 million employees involved in the recycling industry at China. The top eight recycled materials are scrap iron and steel, other scrap metals, plastic scrap, scrap tires, scrap paper, waste electrical and electronic products (WEEE), end-of-life vehicles and ships to be dismantled.

These sectors accounts for 160 million tons in of material valued CN¥481.7 billion ($77.6 billion), adds Wang.

Wang says plastic recycling enjoyed a fast-growing period that peaked in 2010 with an annual increase that year of 25.6 percent more plastic scrap consumed in China compared to the year before.

Without mentioning Operation Green Fence specifically, Wang says imports of plastic scrap into China in 2013 dropped just as dramatically as plastic scrap consumption. In 2013, China imported 7.89 million metric tons of plastic scrap compared to nearly 8.88 million metric tons the year before—an 11.2 percent drop.

Wang also quotes Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen as saying, “Overall, the new rural construction and urban development policy in China creates opportunities for the recycling industry in the long run, and the industry can hopefully turn around.”