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Waste plastic imports drop as China gets tough with recyclers

By Steve Toloken, Plastics News
Posted 14 November 2012

Plastics recycler Shenzhen New Rainbow Recycled Materials Technology has seen its imports of waste HDPE bottles drop at least 20% this year as China’s government has cracked down on bringing waste plastic into the country.

New Rainbow is not alone. Hong Kong-based Lung Shing International Group Ltd. has had imports of recycled plastic drop by one-third through the port of Guangzhou, but Alex Xie, general manager of its Guangzhou factory said Lung Shing considers itself lucky because that’s well below the 50 percent overall drop in that port. “Costs have increased a lot,” said Xie. “It takes more time to clear customs.”

Governments throughout China have been getting tougher with the country’s plastics recyclers, as they try to cut back on what they say is pollution from an industry that sometimes operates without proper waste water treatment and other environmental controls.

It was topic No. 1 for speakers and attendees at the ChinaReplas 2012 conference and trade show, held Nov. 6-7 in Beijing, as industry representatives gathered to hear government officials discuss their latest plans, which include stricter rules on importing scrap plastic and closing unlicensed companies.

Guan Aiguo, chairman and managing director of Tangshan China Recycling Development Co. Ltd., said the industry will undergo dramatic restructuring in the next three to five years as costs rise and government regulations cut down on pollution. In a speech to the conference, he said “99% of China’s scrap plastics companies do not have equipment to properly clean the water they use in their factories.

“They do not process or clean the water,” said Guan, whose Tangshan, Hebei province-based company owns plastics recycling factories and invests in industrial parks for recyclers. “They emit it directly. It is a very serious problem.”

Many of the recycling plants are operated by farmers, using simple technology, and are not safe places to work, he said. Guan said he finds it difficult to visit such factories for more than 10 minutes because of their environmental conditions, but people spend hours a day in them and become ill after years of work: “They sacrifice their health for money.”

Guan said his company is opening industrial parks for recyclers, with water treatment and other environmental facilities and 24-hour fire protection brigades. Such parks are also part of the Chinese government’s strategy.

Wu Gen Ping, an official from China’s General Administration of Customs, said instituting such parks in Guangdong is part of the reason imports went down there. Those zones have achieved “obvious results” in better waste management, he said, and he encouraged companies to look at them. He also said the customs inspectors and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection are working closely together.

This story is an abridged version of the Plastics News original.


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