Trends and Issues in the Plastics Cycle in China, with Special Emphasis on Trade and Recycling
CREED Working Paper 16
Posted: 7 Feb 1998
Date Written: December 1997
Demand for plastic products in China is increasing rapidly. Yet China has neither the productive capacity to keep pace with demand, nor the management systems to adequately deal with the increasing burden of plastic waste. These problems highlight the potential role for recycling in the industry. This paper provides an overview of the main trends and issues in the plastic cycle in China, with an emphasis on recycling. Since China is the world's largest importer of waste plastics, possible effects of this trade are described and priority issues are identified. From an economic perspective, the projected increase in demand for plastics will create markets of sufficient magnitude for both the primary and the secondary plastic industries to develop, with little competition between the two. The current informal sector will play an important role in the development of the plastic recovery industry. From an environmental perspective the post-consumption stage is identified as the most intensive stage in the cycle. From an international perspective, the process of substituting domestic for imported raw materials will mean that Chinese production will have to meet international levels of efficiency to avoid protective trade measures. This will also stimulate exports of plastic products. With regard to the rapidly increasing imports of waste plastics it is still unclear what the exact impact is. A more rigorous analysis is needed to clarify this issue.
JEL Classification: O13, Q28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation