China to keep importing UK recovered paper and plastic

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: International trade

China will continue to import UK recovered paper and plastic, including supplies from the food and beverage industries, despite the global recession, says a new survey conducted by Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The China Market Sentiment Survey​, the first of its kind conducted among Chinese reprocessors, sampled the attitudes of more than 100 paper and plastics reprocessors in China.

Despite being conducted after last autumn’s sharp falls in demand and prices in China, the survey revealed that 92 per cent of paper and 87 per cent of plastics reprocessors sampled said they intended to continue buying recovered materials.

Corrugated boxes

More than 70 per cent of paper reprocessors recycled old cardboard, followed by old newspapers and over half recycled magazines while nearly 40 per cent recycled mixed papers. Most of the recovered materials are made into packaging in the form of cartons and corrugated boxes.

The plastics reprocessors surveyed reprocessed mostly film (51 per cent), PET bottles (33 per cent) and polypropylene (36 per cent). Recovered plastics are used to manufacture plastic films, household and electrical goods, textiles and toys.

Although committed to using recovered materials in the short term, most Chinese reprocessors of plastic and paper said they were unsure of their intentions in the medium term due to global financial uncertainty.

The two factors most influencing the origin of Chinese imports of recovered materials were price and quality.

Recovered plastics

UK trade in recovered material with China has climbed from several thousand tonnes in 1999 to 2.7m tonnes of recovered paper, and 517,000 tonnes of recovered plastics last year. “It is a key end market for our recovered materials – accounting for 55 per cent of the UK’s exports of recovered paper and 80 per cent for recovered plastics​,” confirms WRAP; a UK government funded organisation dedicated to ensuring the UK meets EU requirements on reducing waste.

Commenting on the survey, Marcus Gover, the organisation’s director said: “Our China Market Sentiment report breaks new ground in an understanding of how the Chinese market views materials from the UK. And it is good news that China is still open for business as far as UK recovered materials are concerned​. “

In both domestic and export recycling markets, the quality of materials plays an important role, he added. “Both the domestic and export markets are looking for as high a quality as possible. Quality material is still attracting a premium price​.”

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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