Monday, February 9, 2009

The Collapse of Japanese and Chinese Recycling Businesses

by Charles Roring



used-plastic-bottles-in-japan.jpgRecycling has been a hot issue in recent days. Global warming and reduction of CO2 emission are now the concern of everybody. This concern can also be seen in Japan and China, two great Asian countries. Japan as the most industrialized nation discharges huge amount of used plastic bottles every day. They can be recycled and formed into other products such as jackets, shoes and even beds.


Japanese municipality authorities have been exporting used plastic bottles to companies in China for years. This operation, besides reducing the burden many Japanese businesses have to bear for reprocessing or recycling the plastics wastes, brings in a lot of profit to Japanese municipalities.


During the current economic slowdown, the demand for plastic wastes from China is going down rapidly. In China, the plastic bottles are cut into smaller pieces, washed and processed into synthetic cotton which the raw material for clothes that use synthetic fibers.


The lower demand for the recyclable plastic bottles is caused by the lower demand of plastic or synthetic products in Europe, the United States and many other Asian countries.


Piles of plastic bottles are now becoming a serious problem for the municipality authorities in most of the Japanese cities. They cannot export these plastic wastes to China anymore.


In addition, the lower price of fuel oil has been another factor that stops Chinese businesses to import used plastic bottles from China. They see that synthetic cotton made of oil is softer than the one made from used plastic bottles.


Japanese recycling companies are not ready to absorb the continued growing of used plastic bottles that are discharged by Japanese house holds everyday. Their capacity is smaller than the number of wastes they have to recycle.


There is one company in Japan that is now trying to recycle the used plastic bottles into plastic bottles again hoping that they can create a closed cycle for the plastic bottles which are now used and produced in Japan. They successfully constructed and tested the plastic bottles recycling plant but later they found out the production cost is higher than directly producing the bottles from raw material which is oil.


Although it is more expensive, the recycling of used plastic bottles to produce new plastic bottles has saved 40% of the energy consumption. This is another positive point which makes the Japanese company to their operation. In the future, when the price of fuel oil has returned to normal again, they believe that their plant will be more economical and produce profits for the company.


Also read: What city dwellers can do to protect coral reef