If China cuts off all imports of recycle plastics, as reported in the media as possibly occurring as soon as 2018, the impact on recycling industries in the US, Europe and Asia of the loss of a market for 7.3 million tons of recycle polymer would be huge.
Recycle polyethylene and PET are the largest volume recycle polymer imports into China, each of which totaled 2.5 million tons in 2016 based on Chinese import figures. Together, R-PE and R-PET account for nearly 70% of the 7.3 million ton total of recycle polymer China imported last year.
Of the 2.5 million tons of recycle PE imported by China, Western Europe and other Asia-Pacific countries each supplied 1.0 million tons; North America (US + Canada) provided 362,000 tons; small volumes were imported from other regions.
Similarly, of the 2.5 million tons of recycle PET imported by China, other Asia-Pacific supplied 1.9 million tons, North America, 192,000 tons, Western Europe 181,000 tons.
China’s imports account for roughly half of the volume of recycle polymer traded globally. Although imports into Malaysia, Vietnam and India and others are growing, volumes are much smaller than China’s. The absence of alternative export markets will particularly impact the recycling industries in Western Europe and North America who will have to find a new destination for over 2 million tons of recycle polymer.
From International Trader Publications’: China Polymer Trade Report and Recycle Polyethylene World Trade Report