Facing external and internal challenges

Summary of the 15th China International Recycled Polyester and PET Packaging Conference & Exhibition

by Dr Ulrich Thiele, Co-Organiser

The 15th China International Recycled Polyester and PET Packaging Conference & Exhibition was held on September 18-20, 2019 in Shanghai, China. During the conference it was interesting to see how the Chinese recycling industry in general and the Chinese polyester recycling industry in particular is on its way to digesting the drastic measures of the Chinese government to ban the import of any plastic waste from January 2018 on. While Europe is struggling with individual measures such as the ban on drinking straws, plastic bags or disposable tableware, the Chinese leadership has created eight ministerial administrative units covering the entire complex of environmental protection, renewable energies, circular economy including recycling and climate protection. There is still a substantial gap compared to European environmental standards but Chinese speed of progress in this area is impressive.

More than 360 delegates from China and overseas heard about the latest results in polyester recycling technology, production and market and exchanged their recent experiences. Two contributions from governmental organisations and three from industry associations underlined the high administrative awareness of the recycling issue and loop economy in general.

Zhang Deyuan, Dept. Director General of Institute of Economic System and Management NDRC outlined the basics regarding “China’s Policies for the Recycling Economy over the 13th Five-Year Plan-Recycled Plastics”. The pressures behind the environmental and recycling complex are China’s substantial fears that there is only a short time left to develop and introduce loop technology and economy. This new perspective is reflected in the establishment of eight different state councils, which cover the entire complex of environmental and recycling management. Most important among them are the NDRC, MIIT, Ministry of Environmental Protection, MOST and MOHURD.

Li Deli, Secretary General of China Chemical Fibres Association Recycled Fibre Commission talked about “Green Fibre Certificate and Fibre Recycling”. The approved products and companies are of high product quality and production standards. The target is to substantially increase the number of approved companies to increase the acceptance of recycled products in the market.

Wang Huansong, Senior Engineer Environmental Protection Research Institute of Light Industry explained the “Reformation of China’s Emission Permit System” which is similar to the European “Industrial Emissions Directive” or the BimSchG regulation in Germany. This new regulation has in particular the objective  of reducing the ubiquitous air pollution in China’s major cities.

Zhang Zhongjuan, Person in Charge of Energy Saving and Green Standard of Industry Dept., China National Textile and Apparel Council discussed “Green Factory Criteria for the Textile Industry”. This initiative introduced and promoted by MIIT is targeted to assess step by step the whole of Chinese Industry to improve environmental issues, reduce CO2 footprint and harmful emissions as well as raw material consumption.

Zhang Feipeng, President Fujian Baichuan Resources Recycling Science & Technology Co., Ltd. introduced the audience to “Customisation and Green Development of Recycled Coloured Yarn”. To reduce the high water consumption during the wet dyeing of polyester yarn and fibre the application of colour masterbatch and spin-dyeing is the method of choice. Spin-dyeing of recycled fibre material is, compared to virgin polyester, more complicated because of the fluctuating discolouration of rPET. The way out is to increase  colour lots by customer bundling and the availability of a large number of reproducible colours and colour shade recipes stored and organised in by a data base.

Wolfgang Hermann, Business Development Manager Fibres & Textiles Erema Group GmbH discussed  “Future requirements of the Circular Economy and Erema’s smart and flexible solutions”. Erema recognised the raw material producers as drivers of the plastic/polyester recycling and optimised its product portfolio accordingly. In this respect Erema is about to improve especially the uninterrupted running time of their recycling units from 12 to 24 months which is significant for the plant economy.

Lin Jun, analyst of CHTC Landview Network (former CCFEI): The title of her contribution “Researches of rPET Industry Development in Current Macro-cycle” X-rayed in detail the economic development of PET recycling industry over the past ten years.

Wang Zhijun, General Manager of Hebei Jinyi Polyester Fiber Co., Ltd. summarised with his contribution “Status quo and perspectives for the recycling industry” the tough situation of the Chinese PET recycling industry in all correlations like plant relocation to the Far East, low utilisation rates 50 -60%, US trade war and price erosion. Possible solutions include an increase of plant capacity and productivity as well as cooperation with important brand owners.

David Hehenberger, Manager of Market and Business Development Department NGR Plastic Recycling Technologies updated the audience by talking about “Liquid State Polycondensation – Effectivity and Application Opportunities”. NGR’s LSP-unit to increase molecular weight of PET by melt phase polycondensation has now  arrived in the recycling market with 16 units in film and fibre applications. A welcome side effect of the process is the decontamination during vacuum processing.

Masanobu Ishikawa, PhD, Professor Emeritus Kobe University Councillor of The Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association: His contribution “PET bottle recycling in Japan: the history from the viewpoint of structural change to get future prospects” dealt with the scientific and social background of the consumption and recycling of plastic in Japan and worldwide. He explained the change from the linear to the circular economy and the underlying driving forces. Very important for the change to the circular economy are, according to Prof. Ishikawa policy and government as the leading forces of this process.

Aldo Previero, General Manager of Sorema div. of Previero Srl presented the paper entitled “The State of the Art Sorema PET Washing Lines in China”. By producing PET flakes of superior quality using Sorema technology A. Previero claimed their pure rPET as unique and a product on its own, not as a replacement of virgin PET.

Sun Yajun, General Manager Zhongxing Environmental Protection Technology Co., Ltd spoke about “Flake Recycling Leading Green Fashion” as an introduction and advertisement for his company.

Zhang Lei, General Manager, Jiangyin Desel Environmental Protection Equipment Co., Ltd. His contribution was called “Cold Thinking on the Transfer and Development of the rPET Industry” and dealt with the general development of the PET recycling industry of China in comparison with other regions of the world, especially with problems of production relocation to Africa and the Far East.

Qiu Binhong, Manager of Green Environment Department of Intertec Green Initiatives; the paper “GRS V4 Certificate – New Opportunities for Recycling Enterprises” advertised the application of the GRS V4 certificate as important tool to improve product quality of textiles based on rPET.

Stewart Hardy, Global Manager  Petrochemical Market Dynamics of Nexant Inc. analysed the rPET products and rPET raw material markets by its contribution “From Discount-to-Premium: rPET Fibre in the Era of Sustainable Fashion”. Highly interesting is his prediction that the demand for recycled products will increase drastically in the near future. He analysed which market participants will grow and which will suffer during the area of conversion. The entrance of a substantial number of large brand owners and discounters in the recycling market will trigger a massive increase of rPET based products. The hitherto negative price gap between virgin and rPET will turn to positive in the near future.

Ji Hui, Analyst CHTC Landview Network (CCFEI) closed the conference with her summary about “SWOT Analysis of rPET Industry against the Backdrop of Policy Change”. The analysis contains data of the Chinese rPET market and price development from 2017 till today and is providing a data-based view of the drastic impact of the plastic waste import ban since 12/18.

The conference book which contains most of the presentations is available on www.polyester-technology.com or at www.ccfei.net.