The World

To feed demand from factories and construction companies.


Jumat, 31 Okt 2014 17:30 WIB


Mark Godfrey

The World

China, trash, recycling, industry, Mark Godfrey

The world now produces over four billion tons of waste every year.

China buys some of it, mainly scrap metal plastic and paper, to feed demand from factories and construction companies.

Plastic bottles are melted down to make everything from acrylic clothing to electronics.

Old ladies line up with carts of plastic bottles, stacks of newspapers and even bits of toys and metal kitchenware they’ve collected up.

They are here on Dongzhimenwai, a street in the downtown Beijing to sell their waste.

The buyer is Liu Aiguo…

“I fill up the truck and then I drive it to Tongzhou town outside the city, to a holding depot that takes it to factories. We buy plastic bottles and bales of paper and we buy steel. But it depends on the quality. We can also go and collect from offices that have a lot of paper.”
The materials are sorted and then sold on to factories who’ll melt down this plastic and turn the stacks of old newspaper into rolls of paper for use in new fibre.

Recycling provides a livelihood for the collectors but it also provides cheaper raw materials for China’s manufacturing and construction.

I’ve come to the western half of Beijing to the headquarters of the China Metals Recycling Association.

In an impressive board room the organisation’s vice secretary general Zhang Xizhong explains how his organisation’s members generate US$40 billion a year by recycling 10 million tons of aluminum, copper and lead.

But a weaker Chinese economy has reduced demand for imported scrap.

“The growth of the economy has slowed down and we can see in the first half of this year that both the volume and the value of imports dropped. The demand for metals in China remains largely stable but because demand isn’t growing like before prices become a problem.”
Zhang says China can protect its environment and save precious energy and water by using scrap rather than smelting new metals. 

“The Chinese government has as early as 2002 put the policies in place to make recycling a central part of our economy. Companies involved in this industry have grown a lot under government’s supportive policies and we expect policies to continue to develop the recycling industry in China.”

Scrap dealers around the world are counting on Chinese demand to make recycling profitable.

China is a big customer for Ranjit Baxi who runs the UK-based waste trading company J&H Sales International.
He is also a board member of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), an umbrella body of recycling companies worldwide.
Baxi is also this autumn publishing a book about the global recycling business called Recycling our Future.
It shows recycling a ton of paper saves 30 trees, 26,000 liters of water and over three cubic meters of landfill space. He addressed clients at a conference in China this week by phone.

“Where China was importing half a million tons of paper before the year 2000 today China is importing 30 million tons. At the same time China’s collection of waste paper within China was very low previous to year 2000 but today I could well estimate that China is collecting domestically close to 50 million tons.”

Baxi says more than 80 percent of items buried in a landfill could be recycled.
But demand from China will have to improve in order to make prices worthwhile for traders of recyclable waste like himself.

Meanwhile China is also getting stricter on imports of waste paper.
“China is considering to put a control on the amounts or volumes of recovered fibre imports or import licenses that they’re issuing to the paper mills. So they are trying to reduce those licenses or control those licenses.”
With weaker demand for waste Beijing waste collector Liu Aiguo says he’s also having to get more choosy about the waste he buys from the old ladies who line up every morning with their carts of waste on Dongzhimenwai.
But Liu China still needs to recycle waste so he’ll keep buying. 


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