GUANGZHOU, CHINA (Nov. 15, 1:15 p.m. ET) — As labor costs in China continue to rise quickly, plastics recyclers are looking to automation solutions.
Recyclers in south China's Guangdong province are facing “unprecedented difficulties,” partly due to the continuously increasing labor costs, said Toland Lam, president of the China Plastics Industry Association's recycling committee and owner of recycler T&T Hi-Tech Development Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen. He spoke at the 2011 China Replas, held Nov. 6-7 in Guangzhou.
Chen Zhuhan, vice president of the recycling committee and owner of Zhongheng International Trade Co. Ltd., said many recyclers in China need transformations and innovations.
Adopting new technologies is one of the key steps these companies need to take in order to survive the fierce competition, he added.
Aiming to meet such demand, global as well as Chinese domestic automation equipment makers tout their latest products.
Norway-based Tomra Group established a branch, Titech China, in Xiamen, Fujian province, this year, to market sensor-based sorting systems for plastics recycling.
China country manager Jacob Rognhaug said Titech has sold 16 sensor-based sorting systems to Chinese domestic companies.
The typical payback time for using Titech's equipment is less than three years, he said. However, the operation needs to be of a certain size to optimize cost savings. He used PET sorting as an example, saying that the smallest machine Titech offers is 660-mm wide and takes at least 1.5 metric tons of PET bottles per hour.
Chinese domestic suppliers also are trying to tap into the market. Guangzhou Yuyu Environmental Technology Co. Ltd., for example, touted at the Replas event that its PET bottle sorting system can cut costs by up to 60 percent.
However, company executive Wu Qinglang said it is difficult to promote the use of automation solutions in the plastic recycling industry, mainly because the prices of the machines are high, and the companies are not willing to invest since they are unsure about the industry's future in China.
“Since the government's position on plastic recycling is still unclear, companies are not confident enough in the future of the industry. Few of them would be willing to invest a large sum of money on automation,” Wu added.
Paul Yan, chairman of Jiangsu-based Taicang Sicheng Plastics Co. Ltd., said the government should reduce tariffs on imported plastic scrap, so that companies could have more money to invest in better technologies.