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China's plastic demand set to rise

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by September 15, 2017 General

SINGAPORE – China’s already soaring plastic demand may rise even further as the government plans to ban waste-plastic imports by the end of this year, which will curb domestic plastic recycling.

The expected increase in plastic demand highlights the consequences of China’s pollution fight and its efforts to modernise its industry. As part of this drive, the world’s top importer of rubbish said in July that it would stop importing garbage by the end of this year.

To make up for the loss of recycled plastic, petrochemical producers and exporters to China from the Middle East, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore are expected to receive more orders for products including polyethylene, a thermoplastic found in almost everything from grocery bags to bubble wraps, pipes, medical devices and even bulletproof vests.

“From next year, demand for polyethylene would get even better as the impact of the ban would be felt,” said a source from a Chinese firm that produces and markets petroleum and petrochemical products.

China imported 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics last year, taking in over half the world’s leftover plastic.

Of the 7.3 million tonnes, polyethylene made up about 2.53 million tonnes in 2016, and this is expected to fall to between 1.7 million and 1.8 million tonnes this year, data from IHS Markit Chemical showed.

IHS Markit expects China’s polyethylene demand to grow by 6.6 per cent from 2017 to 2018, outpacing Asia’s overall growth of 5.5 per cent.

“The ban of scrap/waste plastics is definitely positive for polyethylene producers as there will be a shift of consumption from recycled polyethylene to prime virgins polyethylene,” said JP Nah, director of polyolefins at IHS Markit Chemical.

Nah said Asia’s 2017 total polyethylene demand would be around 41.5 million tonnes, with China accounting for some two-thirds of total demand.

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