leung grange suez
Bryan Leung (left) and Antoine Grange (right) say Suez expects continued opportunities to invest in the recycling infrastructure of Asia.
Photo by Brian Taylor.

Suez pursues opportunities in Asia

French environmental firm nears startup of its plastic recycling plant in Thailand.

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May 25, 2020

The Asia-Pacific operations of France-based Suez have a decades-long presence in Asia, and the firm’s regional leaders say they are optimistic the environmental services firm can continue to widen its footprint in Asia in the approaching decade.

In a late May press conference at the Suez Asia office in Hong Kong, regional recycling and recovery CEO Antoine Grange commented that Suez had been providing wastewater treatment and waste management services to the People’s Republic of China dating back to 1975.

The company now employs some 9,000 people in Asia overall, according to Grange and Suez Asia Recycling & Trading Manager Bryan Leung.

Many of the French firm’s projects and partnerships in Asia involve wastewater treatment and hazardous waste handling, but one of its largest current investments involves the construction of a low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear-low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) plastic recycling plant in Thailand.

That plant, scheduled to be online later in 2020, will have the capacity to convert some 30,000 tons per year of plastic film into recycled-content pellets. Suez describes the 14,000 square meters (150,000 square feet) facility as having “an advanced, efficient water treatment system [and] rooftop solar panels.” Grange says it will feature innovative equipment and technology imported from Europe.

Grange and Leung said the investment relates to Suez’s status as a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. That alliance, which was announced in London in January 2019, consists of more than 45 companies who committed to invest some $1 billion to divert plastic scrap from being disposed of improperly.

The two Suez Asia executives, each of whom has been affiliated with the Suez Hong Kong office since the mid-2010s, says the French firm will continue to seek projects and partnerships in Asia to target the property handling of food waste as well as plastic.

On the food scraps front, Suez runs an organic waste treatment facility in Hong Kong with more than 70,000 metric tons of annual capacity. The plant features anaerobic digestion (AD) technology that generates some 6,000 metric tons per year of compost and enough electricity to power its own operation and sell excess electricity to the grid.

Grange expressed confidence that governments in Asia, including in China, are steering toward policies of sustainability, with the potential for increased opportunities in the region. Some of these, he said, could be caused by recycled-content plastic targets being put in place similar to some in Europe.

He said a challenge to new plastic recycling investments exists in the form of low oil prices. “The value of what you are producing has to face huge competition against [currently low-priced] virgin plastic.”

Grange said a future in which recycled-content plastic and virgin plastic pricing were “de-coupled” would be helpful. This could come about, he added, either by regulation, or if consumers “insist on recycled content, and brand owners say, ‘OK, this has a value.’”

As Suez Asia starts the decade of the 2020s, the firm says it is poised to “customize a wide range of waste management solutions that meet the specific operational as well as environmental objectives of various business and industrial clients across Greater China.”

A fact sheet prepared by the firm states, “It is expected that more materials recycling facilities (MRFs) will be built in the coming two to five years across China as the compulsory waste classification model continues to spread to other cities after Shanghai.”

Another bullet point on the fact sheet adds, “China has pledged to adopt sustainable raw materials to replace virgin plastic and reduce pollution. Many large beverage and consumer goods companies such as Nestlé and Coca-Cola have already cut virgin plastic [use] or promote the use of food-grade [recycled-content] PET for packaging.”