The production of one ton of new plastics has about 5.5 ~ 6 tons of carbon emissions, while recycled plastics can reduce carbon emissions by about half.
193 countries produced about 8 million tons of plastic waste related to COVID-19, of which about 26 thousand tons have now entered the global ocean.
The study, published in the monthly journal of the National Academy of Sciences this month, is one of the first quantitative studies on the scale of plastic waste related to the epidemic. It not only raises people's attention to marine pollution, but also highlights the challenges and opportunities of recycled plastics.
Can this plastic waste be recycled? What are the economic benefits and market prospects of recycled plastics? What changes have taken place in the demand for recycled plastics in the supply chain under the goal of "double carbon"? Can the carbon reduction value brought by regeneration make the regeneration industry stand on a larger tuyere?
Economic account of plastic recycling
"Many organizations want to do the green recycling of masks, but because it involves medical risks, the recycling process is complex, and there is little access to the recycling channel at present." Jiang Nanqing, Secretary General of the green recycling Pratt & Whitney special committee of China Environmental Protection Federation, told the first financial reporter that the recycling of epidemic related masks is much more troublesome than the general recycling of disposable plastics, In particular, the epidemic related materials used in the hospital must be incinerated in a centralized manner according to the treatment of medical waste.
In addition to the recycling process and treatment technology, the feasibility of plastic recycling also depends on economic considerations or market choices.
Wang Yonggang, Secretary General of recycled plastics branch of China material recycling association, told first finance and economics that theoretically all plastics can be recycled, but it depends on the cost and economy. If the cost of recycling is much higher than the price of materials, there will be no market.
According to the data previously provided by Ji Junhui, director of the National Engineering Research Center for engineering plastics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, of the hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste worldwide every year, only about 35% are recycled, about 12% are incinerated or cracked, and more than half are accumulated in nature, including 46% in land accumulation or landfill and 7% in the sea.
With the global consumer market and brands paying more attention to recycled materials and the promotion of China's "double carbon" goal, the market demand for recycled plastics has increased rapidly in recent years, and has gained more and more economic power in the rise of raw material prices.
"At present, the main driving force for people to use recycled materials is to save costs." Wang Yonggang said that under normal circumstances, recycled materials will still be cheaper than new materials. In the period of soaring raw materials, the enthusiasm of recycled plastic processing enterprises will be further improved.
Pan Lvmin, President of the Asia Pacific region of the global chemical giant Huntsman polyurethanes division, told the first finance company that the polyester polyol plant was formally put into operation in Taiwan, China last May. 60% of its product components came from the recovered PET (polyethylene terephthalate) material. In the period of sharp fluctuations in raw material prices, compared with similar products, this new low-carbon product has good fire resistance, so it can reduce the addition proportion of flame retardant in thermal insulation materials. In addition, the price of recycled materials is relatively stable, so it has a more controllable advantage in the overall price.
However, with the rising price of raw materials, the market price of recycled materials is also rising.
The recycled plastic particle price index released by the recycled plastics branch of China material recycling association shows that in October 2021, the average value of the recycled plastic price index was 909.5 points, reaching the highest point since 2020.
Soochow Research Institute proposed that the European Union, the United States and other regions have issued relevant laws and regulations to clarify that, as one of the most common plastic components in the world, the minimum use proportion and corresponding realization life of recycled plastics need to be added to disposable beverage containers with pet as the main component. Therefore, the demand for peer-to-peer and high value-added utilization of this kind of "bottle to bottle" will expand rapidly in the future, So as to open up a broad market space for the recycling of waste plastics.
In July this year, the American Chemical Association (ACC) proposed that Congress adopt a national standard for recycled plastics, requiring the adoption of the "national standard for recycled plastics", and all plastic packaging should use at least 30% recycled materials by 2030.
Under such a trend, more and more international brands begin to show their preference for recycled materials in procurement. High end recycled materials are also sold at a higher price than new materials of the same quality because of their social value and higher environmental protection cost.
"At present, the traceability system of recycling in China is not perfect enough. Therefore, in the price inversion, enterprises also use new materials to pretend to be recycled materials, which can obtain higher prices and higher recognition of brands," said Jiang Nanqing.
There is huge room for improvement in waste plastic recycling worldwide. Wang Yonggang said that the recycling ratio of waste plastics in China is at a high level worldwide, more than 30%, while the recycling ratio of waste plastics in the United States is about 10% and that in Japan is only about 20%. After China stopped the import of "foreign waste", the pattern of "localized treatment" of global solid waste is becoming more and more obvious.
As the foreign recycling system is relatively mature, many Chinese enterprises choose to "go out" to find renewable raw materials after banning the import of "foreign garbage".
Fan Yushun, executive vice president of the plastic recycling special committee of China Plastics Association, told China first finance and economics that about 2000 factories in China had imported foreign plastic waste. After banning the import of "foreign waste", one third changed careers, one third moved abroad and one third engaged in domestic waste plastic recycling. Now, with the improvement of environmental protection policies, the whole industry is developing from decentralization and low value to high value and concentration, and the threshold is increasing, "Those with a production capacity of more than 10000 tons belong to entry-level enterprises, those with a production capacity of more than 30000 tons belong to medium-sized enterprises, and those with a production capacity of more than 100000 tons belong to large backbone enterprises. Due to insufficient financial strength, it is difficult for small enterprises to enter in the face of current environmental protection policies.".
Fan Yushun himself is also "going out" As Japan's waste plastic recycling industry began to rely entirely on local recycling and treatment, fan Yushun closed down domestic factories, went to Japan to establish special plastic factories, and then exported the processed recycled plastic products to China. Although the output decreased due to the epidemic and the lack of front-line production staff, the factory can operate normally and have good benefits The market segment also shows a situation of short supply.
According to fan Yushun's observation, nearly half of China's recycled plastics are imported from abroad, most of which come from overseas recycling plants of Chinese enterprises. In terms of recycling technology, China is the most mature and advanced in the world.
Wang Yonggang said that from the perspective of the domestic recycled plastic market, the current low-end capacity is overcapacity, and the high-end capacity is obviously in short supply.
"Double carbon" blowing new air outlet
This year's hot "double carbon" concept has blown a new outlet for the recycling industry.
Zhejiang yingruite recycled materials technology Co., Ltd. has been recycling marine waste plastics since 2016, that is, recycling the waste fishing nets generated by fishery participants into textile raw materials. Hu Pengyan, R & D director of the company, told China first finance and economics that China has clearly put forward the "double carbon" since the end of 2019 They can clearly feel that the recognition of recycled materials in the whole market is increasing. At present, the company cooperates with clothing brands at home and abroad, and is also expanding the production scale. It is expected that the production capacity will increase nearly three times in the next three years.
Hu Pengyan said that compared with the traditional waste recycling mode, the company's current recycling mode has the characteristics of industrialization and modernization, and the cost is 30% ~ 40% higher than that of the traditional mode to ensure that the application scenarios, employee welfare and social responsibility are met. Therefore, at present, the economic power of the company is not enough, and the market caused by the change of the overall consciousness of the consumer market and supply chain is him We see greater opportunities.
According to Hu Pengyan, their recycled materials are mainly supplied to domestic manufacturers, but the end products are mainly sold overseas.
For renewable enterprises, in addition to the economic power, the promotion of China's "double carbon" goal and the low-carbon trend of the global supply chain have made them clear the direction of transformation to high value, and they are also looking forward to the real benefits brought by the penetration of carbon trading.
On September 15, the national development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of ecological environment issued the action plan for plastic pollution control in the 14th five year plan to strengthen the recycling of waste plastics and clearly encourage the same level and high value-added utilization of waste plastics.
"Some high-value recycled plastics certified by European and American countries are more expensive than new materials, but international enterprises are willing to purchase more expensive recycled materials in order to meet the minimum requirements of local governments and avoid disposal fees." fan Yushun said that only when there is market demand can we promote the application of recycled materials.
Jiang Nanqing also proposed that more and more brands have put forward their own "zero carbon" goal, and 80% of the carbon emissions of the brand side are indirect emissions. Therefore, we must promote the carbon emission reduction of front-end supply chain and back-end consumption, so as to promote more renewable enterprises to enter their own supply chain.
"In the recycling industry of waste plastics, there is no obstacle to recycling technology, and efforts should be made to the front-end packaging design and back-end recycling." Jiang Nanqing said that among them, standardized products should be made in product packaging, the use of composite materials and colors should be improved, and excessive packaging should be reduced to achieve more efficient recycling.
According to fan Yushun's calculation, producing a ton of new plastics will have about 5.5 ~ 6 tons of carbon emissions, and recycled plastics can reduce carbon emissions by about half. Can such carbon reduction reflect its value through carbon trading? At present, China Plastics Processing Industry Association is making quantitative standards for carbon reduction of different varieties of recycled plastics to promote the upgrading of the recycling industry.