Executives from some of China's largest wood-plastic composites companies are calling for the industry to beef up quality control and develop national testing standards, with one suggesting that they must learn from the country's tainted milk scandals.
Speaking at an industry conference Oct. 10, officials said the actions were needed to address some quality problems and image issues faced by Chinese firms, and also to help insure that the industry maintains strong growth.
Wu Zheng Yuan, vice chairman of WPC maker Nanjing Jufeng Advanced Materials Co. Ltd., told delegates at the China International Forum on Wood Plastic Composites that there is an ``urgent need'' for Chinese standards to help insure uniform quality testing of WPC products.
WPC is a relatively new market in China and growing at least 15 percent a year, but, officials said, it has been hurt by the same problems that have dogged the industry in the United States. In America, WPC makers have faced several expensive class-action lawsuits in recent years alleging defective products or improper marketing claims.
Wu did not mention consumer unhappiness directly in his speech to delegates at the forum, which was held in Shenyang on Oct. 10-11. But in an interview afterward, he said industry standards would help address that problem.
``In order to promote the development of WPC in China, we need a national standard,'' he said. ``The absence of a uniform national standard always limits development.''
He said Chinese firms have not faced lawsuits but have faced consumer complaints. Wu, whose company is based in Nanjing, said industry should look to standards used in the United States, Europe and Japan and be vigilant.
The United States, for example, developed one standard in 2004, but has since modified it at least five times, he said. ``It shows the USA takes this problem very seriously.''
He said companies in China now may be using standards from other countries, or applying separate standards for wood or plastic products to their goods. But because WPC is a new material, it should have its own Chinese quality standards, he said.
Standards from other countries may not fit with China, he said. Some companies in Europe, for example, use a British standard that references WPC as being made using plastic machinery. But he said some Chinese companies use other manufacturing techniques.
Another speaker called on his Chinese colleagues to be more aggressive in tackling quality issues.
Wayne Song, chief executive officer of Chinese-American joint venture firm QC Future, told the delegates that as one example, China's WPC machinery industry hurt itself when it sold ``a lot'' of extrusion lines and equipment to Iran that did not have acceptable quality or adequate sales and service. That resulted in Iranians not trusting Chinese equipment in general, he said.
He compared the situation to problems with melamine-tainted milk that has killed four infants in China and sickened thousands.
``Similar to the melamine issue in baby milk, we must pay attention to resolve the quality issues,'' Song said. ``We must establish, maintain and protect the brand name of `Made in China.'
``If one company [has] a bad reputation, the whole industry might go down.''
Song said there are different standards of quality around the world, and he urged Chinese firms to proactively try to follow higher standards.
He cited the example of using lead in PVC products. The United States and Europe do not allow lead stabilizers to be used in PVC. While China does allow lead, Song said Chinese companies should follow American and European standards to avoid future problems.
Song's company, Qinchuan Future Plastic Machinery Co. Ltd., in Baoji, China, makes WPC equipment and also operates a factory that makes WPC products.
China is not alone in pushing to develop more uniform standards. Europe is about one year away from developing a European-wide standard for WPC, said Thomas Eisemann, head of sales for the extrusion center at ReifenhÃ¤user Extrusion GmbH & Co. KG, in Troisdorf, Germany. There is currently a decking standard, he told the conference.