Profound Changes in China’s Commodity Polymer Trade

Historically low imports of recycle polymers, heavy imports of virgin HDPE, record high exports of PET, and, a strong upward trend in exports of fabricated plastic products were features of China’s trade in the first half of 2013.

After several┬áconsecutive years of growing imports of recycle/scrap polymers, China’s imports from February through June 2013 were the lowest since the global financial crisis at the end of 2008. Government efforts to reduce pollution from imports of contaminated recycle polymer heavily impacted recycle polyolefin imports and may also have led to higher imports of virgin polymers. China’s imports of virgin polyolefins were up 7% June YTD, with HDPE imports up 18%. (HDPE milk bottles are a large component of recycle polyethylene.)

China’s PET exports were at a new record high from March through June, volume YTD up 46%. Turkey, Ukraine and Japan were particularly high growth export destinations.

China’s exports of various fabricated plastic products have trended higher each year since 2009 and set a new record in May 2013. Exports of housing and construction-related products showed particularly strong gains through June.