South East Asia set to dominate waste imports following China ban

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The sub-region of South East Asia could potentially become “a world leader” in importing plastic waste, according to the latest report by research and consultancy group PCI Wood Mackenzie.

Titled 'RPET China study – China waste import ban 2017', the report said a ban on waste imports by China, which will come into effect by the end of the year, will see a majority of PET waste exporters looking for alternatives.

“Some will view this as an opportunity to absorb and develop domestic rPET markets, while others are pessimistic about the growing volumes of mixed plastics remaining where there are no markets for the material,” the report said.

According to Wood Mackenzie, implications of the ban could see South East Asia become a dominant player in importing plastic waste.

The region has traditionally been the single largest source of waste imports into China and is now in the position to develop its reclamation capacity and secondary markets further.

“With financial investment from China, advances are currently under way across the chain and are gaining momentum,” the report added.

The Wood Mackenzie report also predicted “significant repercussions” for global recycling chain following the Chinese government ban on waste imports, including plastics.

In the US, however, the proportion of collected material being exported to China has been on a downward trend due to the region absorbing a greater share of collected material.

“Many will see this as a golden opportunity to keep material within the domestic market, improve the sustainability credentials of the region, and migrate to a more circular economy,” the report further added.

Commenting on the report, Helen McGeough, PCI Wood Mackenzie senior consultant, said the ban should serve as a “warning” to those countries exporting plastics.

“Asian countries may be happy to accept waste plastics, but the quality must be of acceptable levels to ensure the stream is viable and sustainable for both the industry and environment," she concluded.

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