In waste management, China wants to move away from landfilling and rapidly towards a modern circular economy. And the country starts from a comparatively low level. “At an estimated 20 to 30 percent, China's recycling rate is three to four times lower than Germany's,” explains Markus Delfs, an expert from the China office of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
To date, the informal sector has played an important role in the People's Republic. But after China’s ban on waste imports, the sector, for example, has withdrawn from plastic recycling. “There is a need for new solutions,” says Delfs. “International companies are already active in technologies such as the separation of mixed plastic waste or the chemical treatment of old plastic.
The collection and separation of household waste in China's metropolises is currently developing at an almost galloping pace. Shanghai is regarded as a pioneer here: since July 2019, all private and commercial waste has had to be separated—into the categories “recyclable”, “wet waste”, “dry waste” and “hazardous waste.” Together with a comprehensive control system and heavy fines, this recycling law is considered one of the strictest in the world. According to the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, separation systems for household waste are planned to be introduced in 46 major cities by the end of 2020. To this end, RMB 21.3 billion—currently around USD 3 billion—are to be invested in the construction of waste disposal facilities alone.
“In addition to the treatment of domestic, commercial and hazardous waste, I see increasing opportunities in China for technologies for e-waste treatment, including battery recycling and end-of-life solutions for vehicles,” says Florian Werthmann, Managing Director of Ecologicon, a management consultancy based in Reichenberg/Germany that specializes in waste management and circular economy. According to Chinese industry experts, there is also an increased interest in optical and digitally supported sorting systems as well as flue gas cleaning solutions for the country's growing thermal utilization.
The Middle Kingdom is an important buyer market for the international environmental technology sector. “According to a survey among our member companies, China is in a strong third place in the export statistics of German waste and recycling technologies,” says Karl Rottnick. The consultant for technology and markets in the Waste and Recycling Association of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) continues: “Compared to the same period of the previous year, exports of the corresponding plant and machinery to China rose by another 1.5 percent to a substantial 5.5 percent in 2018. Only the EU member states and North America are buying more of the industry's products.” And GIZ expert Markus Delfs predicts: “Although there are still systemic barriers to waste collection and treatment in the Chinese recycling sector, the investment environment for foreign technologies is expected to be promising.”
IE expo China will soon offer the opportunity to introduce products and services to the market. The next edition of Asia's largest environmental technology fair will be held in Shanghai from April 21–23, 2020. The show focuses on water and wastewater treatment, waste management, remediation, air pollution control and air purification. IE expo is a spin-off of IFAT in Munich/Germany, the World’s Leading Trade Fair for Water, Sewage, Waste and Raw Materials Management, and is supported by a top-class technical/scientific conference program. Conversely, China is strongly represented at the leading trade fair in Munich. In terms of exhibitors and visitors, China is now among the top five countries.