The world's largest residential air conditioner manufacturer is looking into in-house compounding of recycled plastics.
Zhuhai, China-based Gree Electric Appliances Inc. claims annual capacity of 60 million residential air conditioners and 5.5 million commercial air conditioners, with production bases in China, Brazil and Pakistan and more than 70,000 employees.
The company's celebrity CEO Dong Mingzhu recently told Chinese media that she plans to build a recycling subsidiary in China's megacity Chongqing.
In fact, Gree has built four large recycling bases over the past 15 years, and each of them can recycle 1.2 million appliances per year. But the company aims to expand both horizontally and vertically, introducing new businesses that compound recycled plastics and recycle automotive scrap.
Dong, a high-profile female executive, has kept a low profile for her recycling projects, mainly because of slow progress and considerable roadblocks.
One of the biggest challenges, she said, is the fact that most used appliances in China end up being sold to street collectors. These door-to-door vendors feed the goods into an underground system, where appliances are either refurbished and sold to lower-income consumers, or taken apart for resalable components.
Since all this happens in an under-regulated system, the recycling process is quite primitive. Not only does it pose health, safety and environmental risks, but also fails to fully recover the value of recyclable materials.
Dong called for the government to better rein in the recycling collection channels as well as subsidize appliances makers for direct recycling.
Gree Electric, a state-controlled, publicly listed manufacturer, also targets better recyclability from the beginning of the production process, such as developing materials and components that are easy and cost efficient to dissemble and recycle.