As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. With recycling, that meant that garbage crosses seas from industrialized nations to developing countries so that recyclers can sort the trash for stuff that can be reused.
Until recently, that was the case in China as its spectacular growth coupled with its status as the factory of the world fueled a seemingly insatiable appetite for raw materials. Raw materials included not only virgin ore, pulp and hydrocarbons, but those that could be recycled from trash as well. This meant that The Middle Kingdom scoured the ends of the earth not only to import ores, but for scraps as well. Well, at least that was the case until recently.
This year the Chinese will be throwing out an estimated 5 million personal computers, 15 million appliances, and 100 million cellphones. This is expected to promote recycling on an unprecedented scale, according to the secretary general at the recycling division of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, Wang Jiwei. In Ziya district alone, there are already a million metric tons of scrap appliances and electronics. From this can be recovered 400,000 tons of copper, 200,000 tons of iron and 200,000 tons of aluminum that get resurrected as cans, cables and wires.
Whereas before scrap dealers and recyclers relied on foreign trash, now tightening supplies, depressed metal prices, and rising environmental costs are limiting production.
But then, recyclers in China are seeing bright prospects ahead. The world’s second largest economy is now its biggest car market. That is why next year Dongxing Securities Co. predicts that around 9 to 12 million used cars will be scrapped.
This, coupled with central government subsidies for recycling metal are expected to spur the recycling business. Pan Yonggang, secretary general at China Resource Recycling Association, says, ” “used vehicle scrapping will have an explosive growth in the next five to 10 years.”
If recycling catches on in China, the environment will have bright prospects ahead as well.