New Delhi — The global plastics recycling market could take another two years to normalize in the wake of China's ban on waste plastic imports, the head of the Bureau of International Recycling's plastics committee said at a recent industry event.
Surendra Patawari, chairman of the BIR's plastics committee and founder of Antwerp, Belgium-based recyclables firm Gemini Corp. NV, told an industry gathering in India that there are signs orders for recycling machinery are picking up in other markets as reprocessing of recyclables shifts closer to the source of the materials.
In an interview on the sideline of an Aug. 6 recycling conference in New Delhi, Patawari noted that prices for scrap plastic have dropped 30 percent since China's ban took effect Jan. 1, and "may go down further by 10 percent over a period of time."
On the positive side, he noted more interest in processing of recyclables closer to home.
"There is an upsurge in orders with recycling machinery producers [and] substantial investment in recycling, particularly in the U.S., India and South America," he said. "Whatever the international trade scenario, there is a tremendous push and pressure to use and produce recycled plastics. Governments across the world are pushing the industry to promote recycling."
Patawari, who has been chairman of BIR's plastics committee since 2006, said the industry in Europe, the United States and Japan has been overly dependent on Asia.
"It is insane that our plastic industry is so dependent on China and the Far East," he said, in an interview on the sidelines of the International Conference on Sustainable Growth Through Material Recycling: Policy Prescription. "How can anyone be dependent on one region for 80 percent of business? We have been absurdly dependent on China and its neighboring region."
He noted that European exports of plastic scrap fell 40 percent in the first quarter of 2018, with countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia picking up some of the slack from China, as Chinese companies shifted operations there.
One country that's not seen much of an increase in scrap imports is India, he said, as it grapples with infrastructure and logistics issues. There have been some small increases in scrap PET imports into India but in general it's not seen the kind of interest other countries have seen.
"There are difficulties in getting import licenses for other kinds of plastics scrap," Patawari said. "Only 35 companies have been granted the licenses and no new licenses have been given in the last three years."