04

2023

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01

The export of waste plastics in the United States decreased by 17.7%, and the global waste plastic recycling industry will continue to be short of raw materials


According to the US waste plastics export figures recently released by OPIS (Oil price information service), the global waste plastic recycling recycling industry will continue to face serious shortage of recycled materials.

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US waste plastic exports decreased by 17.7%

According to this report, the export volume of waste plastic from the United States from January to October this year was 19503 containers, approximately 450076 tons, a decrease of 17.7% compared to the same period last year. The export countries are Mexico, Canada, Germany, Türkiye and India by volume, and then Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand. For thousands of recyclers in Southeast Asia, successfully purchasing recyclable waste plastic from the United States will only be rare.

At the same time, ExxonMobil of the United States announced that their recycling waste plastic factory in Baytown, Texas, with an annual production capacity of 36000 tons, had started production. In order to comply with the requirements of circular economy and environmental laws, the group has started preparing to increase production capacity to 450000 tons per year at the above address and other places. Other petrochemical plants have also joined the ranks of waste plastics in order to enhance their companies' social corporate responsibility and awareness in environmental protection. In the current situation of more monks and less porridge, the supply shortage is becoming increasingly serious.

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Bottlenecks in the waste plastic market: front-end collection and sorting

In mid November, I shared with the members of the Basel Convention Implementation Committee at the United Nations in Geneva about the current situation of waste plastics. I explained why the global recycling rate of waste plastics is only 9%, mainly because developed countries do not have enough human resources to sort and classify them; Developing countries do not have the system, financial resources, or infrastructure to collect waste plastics for sorting, cleaning, and processing, and then directly produce pellets. The United States and Hong Kong are a good example, where many household waste, even though citizens have classified and placed them in recyclable bins, is forced to be buried or burned due to a lack of resources to be further divided into different types for processing and granulation.

I would like to add that many recycling factories in Southeast Asia have closed down due to a lack of sorted waste plastics for processing and granulation; This situation will also occur in other developed countries, Europe, and the United States. Many investors believe that the market requires many factories to make rubber particles or break them, but they do not know that the bottle neck position is at the front end of the recycling chain for collection and sorting. When everyone desperately invests, it will only lead to overcapacity in back-end recycling and processing enterprises, and under vicious competition, the wave of bankruptcy will continue to occur outside Southeast Asia.

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Chemical recycling brings new competition

Large investment enterprises now include petrochemical plants and consortia, who cite their production as "Advanced Recycling", also known as chemical recycling, which restores waste plastic to its original material and then refines it into different plastics, gasoline, or other petroleum products, and continuously recycles them. Is this technology a breakthrough? In fact, it has always existed, and the controversy is to comply with environmental protection, economic benefits, and production capacity. Although it may be advanced, chemical recovery requires all materials to be classified and sorted before they can be effectively applied. The investment of Petrochemical Group is billions of dollars, and regardless of cost, it is necessary to convert waste plastic into raw materials. Can we avoid competition between recycled particles and our own new materials? This needs further exploration in the future. But what I am certain is that the demand for waste plastics is increasing, the industry's supply and demand are imbalanced, and the supply chain bottleneck is not being paid attention to, which will inevitably cause significant hidden concerns for the development of the industry.

In the future, as supply begins to decrease, the industry will be filled with huge challenges. Everyone must be mentally prepared to cope with this series of problems!