Recycling Conditions in Mainland China
It's estimated that less than 20% of China's waste is trashed according to international standards.
With a national "circular economy" policy, Chinese cities like Beijing are attempting to improve their recycling infrastructure. In 2007, Beijing built the world's largest plastics recycling plant and continued to install recycling bins around the city. The city is hoping to drastically raise its recycling rates, driving up paper recovery, for instance, from 10 percent to 80 percent by 2010.
In Japan, recycling is a $360 billion industry. In the U.S., it's a $100 billion industry. In China, recycling revenues are only $5.4 billion a year. China National Resources aims to grow the recycling industry into a trillion-dollar business.
China's Recycling Market
Prices for recyclables have fallen as the reducing demand. The multibillion-dollar recycling industry in China has now gone into a nosedive because of the global economic crisis and a concomitant fall in commodity prices.
Because Chinese consumption is far less developed than the West's, more than 70 percent of the materials that feed the country's recycling industry must come from abroad, according to a spokesman for the China National Resources Recycling Association. The United States exported $22 billion worth of recycled materials to 152 countries in 2007. Now the organization estimates the value of American recyclables has decreased by 50 to 70 percent. Chinese importers are refusing to accept shipments they already have a contractual obligation to take.
According to the association, a ton of copper scrap now sells for $3,000, down from more than $8,000 in 2007. People in this industry now cannot make a huge profit on recycling. Many manufacturers that process imported recyclables are finding it difficult to stay in business.
Chinese people make a living on recycling, especially e-waste. For example, the disassembling...