There has been much talk about China putting a stop to waste imports in 2019. In addition to this, China has also banned imports of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, like copper and aluminum scrap, as of mid-2019. The 5-year agenda includes special targets for the development of recycling facilities, driven by economic, social and environmental reasons. What does all this mean for metal recycling in China, and where can we see the biggest impacts?
1. Metal recycling will increase
The amount of available scrap metal has increased in China and will continue to grow. Soon China will become a net exporter of scrap metal. For example, the annual sales of passenger vehicles sold in China increased from approximately 10 million to 25 million from 2009 to 2018. All these cars need to be recycled at the end of their life.
We will see an increase in the number of local collection centers and scrap processing plants. The smaller collection centers handle primary material separation and feed the bigger scrap dealers, which consolidate the scrap quantities. In these facilities, further processing takes place to bring the scrap into the form demanded by the steel mills or other users. More baling, shearing and shredding capacity will be installed, as the demand and material quantities increase.
Since 2017, the operation of small induction furnaces has been banned. This places a big requirement on developing electric arc furnaces (EAF), which rely heavily on scrap metal. As a result, and due to the higher availability of scrap, the utilization of scrap in steel making jumped from 11% in 2016 to 20% in 2018. The target for 2025 is around 30% – and even higher going forward.
2. Advanced recycling is spreading to new regions
Today, the most advanced metal scrap recycling areas are located in the eastern coastal region from Guangzhou in the south, right up to Beijing and Tianjin in northern China. However, we can see that smaller, but just as advanced, processing regions are starting to emerge in or near the metropolitan areas throughout the country, including cities like Chengdu, Chongqing, and Anshan, to name a few.
3. More focus on equipment performance
Sophisticated large-scale scrap recycling is a reasonably new industry in China. So far, the majority of recycling equipment has come from local suppliers, as the price of the equipment for lower capacity requirements, like shears and balers, is a decisive factor. As operations get bigger, more and more processors are looking for the kind of high-technology equipment that Metso supplies, to ensure higher capacity and trouble-free performance.