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‘A tremendous future’ predicted for plastics recyclers

China’s ‘unprecedented’ move to stop plastics scrap imports has ‘surprised the whole world’, according to Dr Steve Wong of Fukutomi Co. Ltd and the China Scrap Plastics Association. And in response, many recyclers have shifted their operations mainly to the South East Asian countries of Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, he told the BIR Plastics Committee meeting during the world recycling organisation’s latest convention, held in Barcelona.

However, the Malaysian government has stopped accepting applications for approval permits while the authorities in Vietnam and Thailand are clamping down on factories failing to comply with environmental regulations, leading to some closures. Other potential outlets in Asia – such as Taiwan and the Philippines – are unable to take substantial volumes.

Wong reiterated his support for greater recycling at source, noting an increasing number of examples of businesses going down this route in Europe and the USA.

More investment needed  

The general public has ‘woken up to the urgent need for action on recycling’, enthused Committee Chairman Surendra Patawari Borad of Gemini Corporation. Major names in the business world have been taking steps to improve their recycling performance ‘under pressure from consumers, customers and governments’. The plastics recycling industry could look forward to ‘a tremendous future’ but requires ‘substantial investment’, he maintained.

India ‘to boom’  

Plastics scrap imports into India are running at around 400 000 tonnes per year and are therefore eclipsed by the annual 7 million tonnes that had entered China in the past, noted Patawari Borad ‘The plastics scrap industry in India is going to boom,’ he added. ‘I only hope it is soon.’

In a report on the US market, Patawari Borad drew attention to new targets established by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council, including 100% of plastics packaging to be recyclable or recovered by 2030 and 100% of plastics packaging to be reused, recycled or recovered by 2040. These are ‘very ambitious’ goals, he said, given that the plastic bottle recycling rate in the USA is currently around 30%.

Strong prices

Veolia Propreté France Recycling has seen increased demand from Eastern Europe for PET and HDPE bottles, leading to ‘quite strong’ prices. Plastics recycling opportunities in the Middle East, meanwhile, would be improved if the region could offer ‘a long-term, predictable regulatory legal framework’, according to Mahmoud Al Sharif of the UAE-based Sharif Group of Companies.

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