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CREED Paper #27: The Plastics Sector in China: Issues in Production, Recycling and International Trade

Author(s)Anantha K. Duraiappah, Zhou Xin, Pieter van Beukering
Serie(s)Creed Working Papers


The Chinese plastic sector is presently facing an acute shortage of plastic resin. Three options are available: (1) increase domestic production of primary resin; (2) increase domestic production of secondary resin; and (3) increase import of primary resin. Evaluating option one and three involves a relatively straight forward cost-benefit analysis. Option two on the other hand poses a slightly more complex problem. Since local recovery rates of waste plastic are insufficient to meet demand, production of secondary resin implies the import of waste plastic. Critics of trade in waste argue that imports of waste plastic are in reality a disguise for waste dumping by the exporting country. Moreover, cheap imports of waste tend to crowd out the local recovery system leading to a domestic waste disposal problem. In this paper, a sectoral 'cradle to grave' planning model using material balance flow methodology is formulated with a dual purpose. The first is to investigate which of the three options is economically and environmentally preferable, and the second is to shed more light on the trade in waste and to test the claims put forward by the critics. Preliminary results suggest that option two offers the most economically and environmentally efficient solution but under certain stringent conditions.


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