The global plastics market faces a significantly weaker future because of what is being called “unpredictable turmoil” in China.
In the latest development, Hong Kong is unable to send any recovered plastic to China – the UK’s largest plastics export market – causing sharp drops in the plastics price.
This is particularly affecting plastic bottle trading as Hong Kong is the main route plastic exporters use to send whole plastic bottles to China.
It follows recent reports that China has implemented stricter import codes at ports, requiring a higher level of documentation as they pass through customs (See MRW story).
UK plastics recyclers say the price of mixed bottles has dropped by between £40-£60 per tonne over the past few weeks.
An insider said: “It is affecting plastics in a big way. Currently Guangzhou region, one of the biggest areas to import plastics, is completely blocked. It seems that only a few containers have got through and it has been like this for the past three weeks.”
According to online newsletter China Scrap Plastics, clearance difficulties in the region, where Hong Kong ships material to, have caused more than 4,000 containers to be held up in Hong Kong. It is thought many of them are loaded with plastic.
MRW reported online this week that Guangzhou had introduced a priority-based customs system, ensuring that Chinese companies strictly adhering to the rules would pass through customs more quickly.
According to China Scrap Plastics the priority-based system was part of the reason for the current block and would form a template for other customs divisions in China. The publication suggested that the country’s plastics industry faced “unpredictable turmoil”.
Eco Plastics commercial manager Duncan Oakes said: “There are many factors which influence the export of material from Hong Kong to China such as Government legislation, transportation and pricing queries. This is often fed back to the UK as a simple message of a ‘ban’. But no exporters ever get a clear understanding as to why China decides to restrict imports.”
He warned: “There are UK businesses that have too much reliance on selling products into the Asian markets. It’s crucial that they spread their sales across the UK, European and Asian markets in order to reduce risk [when situations like this occur].”