Post-consumer plastic waste from Europe and North America travels all the way to China and gets treated and made into useful goods, but the recovered value of the material is not being maximized, said an official with a China-based trade association.
Chinese plastics recyclers have come to the realization that the popular model of making polyester fiber out of imported PET bottle waste does not make good use of the scrap material. That's according to Kathy Xuan, vice president of the Recycling Committee of the Beijing-based China Plastics Processing Industry Association.
``On the one hand, the oversupply of polyester fiber is killing manufacturers; on the other hand, high-quality bottle flakes can go back into beverage bottles, or plastic sheet. Fiber is really the last resort and adds less value,'' she said in a telephone interview from her office in Romeoville, Ill.
Ningbo Dafa Chemical Fibers Co., which claims to be China's largest recycled PET fiber maker, is one of the recyclers striving for better products and better margin. Dafa is preparing to launch sheet production. In addition to extrusion lines, Xuan pointed out, Dafa is also adding a more-advanced flake cleaning system.
Xuan is also founder and owner of recycler Parc Corp., which has production facilities in Romeoville and Qingdao, China. She also serves as the North American organizing chief for the Nov. 5-7 CPPIA China Plastics Recycling Conference (China Replas) in Beijing.
Upgrading recycling technologies and equipment will be one of the main discussion topics at the China Replas conference. ``Only high-quality facilities can produce consistently high-quality products,'' Xuan said.
Better recycling facilities will also require stricter pollution control and environmental protection measures. Media coverage of small, unlicensed recyclers polluting water and air has raised attention across the country.
The problems may be solved by the government's initiative of establishing large-scale recycling centers. Xuan predicts that once these well-equipped facilities are certified, Beijing is likely to loosen its tight control on plastic scrap imports, which, for example, currently bans the imports of whole post-consumer PET bottles.
Policy trends will be discussed at China Replas, with speakers from China's Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, as well as Customs.