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SUSTAINABLE MANUFACTURING


 Map shows the estimated production capacity of biodegradable plastics by province


China’s green revolution: biodegradable plastics


While it is clear that the Chinese government is embarking on a green revolution across all sectors and industries, it is difficult to determine whether the policy will be lasting enough for this industry to achieve its environmental mandates. Andy Pye talks to analyst Siao Tin, a Chinese authority on biodegradable plastics who works for GCiS China Strategic Research


T


he Chinese government wants to transformChina into a worldmanufacturing power according to the 10-year national plan “Made in China


2025”. The plan includes strengthening Chinese robot suppliers and further increasing theirmarket shares in China and abroad. China intends to forge ahead andmake it into the world’s top 10most intensively automated nations by 2020. The consumption and production of engineering


plastics is another key indicator of any advanced economy and China is not only developing to a point where it is a key consumer of engineering plastics but a notablemanufacturer as well. With a developing economy comes responsibilities


on the environmental scale and something of a green revolution is taking place. For example, China has decided to develop and implement carbon capture and storage (CCS) on amassive scale. The process of capturing carbon can lead to the formation of carcinogenic chemicals, however, so Chinese researchers are collaborating with Norwegian colleagues in order to overcome this problem. China’s leading CCS research groups are going to


collaborate with the UiO (University of Oslo) and the Norwegian Technology CentreMongstad (TCM), which is the world’s largest facility for testing and developing CO2 capture technologies. The motivation is that the Norwegian researchers have an expertise the Chinese are themselvesmissing. According to GCiS China Strategic Research,


135,000 tonnes of bio-plastics were sold in the Chinamarket in 2016. Largely driven by regulatory mandates in environmental protection, the bio- plasticsmarket is expected to continue growing over the next five years. Following the State Council’s “Order to Limit Plastics” in 2007, Jilin and Jiangsu have gone further to implement a “No Plastics Order” in 2015 and 2017 respectively. The latter order bans the production and sale of disposable plastic bags or tablewaremade using non- biodegradablematerials. Local Jilin officials are also made accountable as their annual performance


Jiangsu Anhul Hubei Jiangxi Guangdong


review will incorporate


performance indicators


related to the implementation of the order.


While it is clear the Chinese government is


embarking on a green revolution across all sectors and industries, it is difficult to determine whether the policy will be lasting enough for this industry to achieve its environmentalmandates. Unlike areas like the phasing out ofHCFC, where there are clear phase out targets, there are no such performance targets when it comes to the biodegradable plastics sector. In Jilin province, a ban on non-biodegradable


plastics is a way to kill two birds with one stone. Prompted by a massive corn glut in recent years, the Jilin government was faced with an oversupply of aged corn that is unpalatable for consumption. By converting the unused corn into xylitol and corn starch, they can be diverted to the local bio- plastics sector for the production of biodegradable plastics. According to GCiS, China’s bio-plastics industry is


valued at close to RMB2.5 billion of domestic sales revenues in 2016, up 13 per cent from2015. Since 2013, government funding has been flowing into the sector, to help support key domestic enterprises and develop industry bases in different parts of the country. This is part of a broader industrial policy aimed at developing bio-plastics, amongmany others, into one of the country’s strategic new materials. China’s bio-plastics industry is dominated by


threemain types of product – partially degradable plastarchmaterial (PSM), polybutyrate (PBAT) and polylactide (PLA) – each with roughly equalmarket shares by revenue Overall, only 13 per cent of companies in this


sector are foreign while the rest are predominantly Chinese. Despite this, foreign companies captured around 25 per cent by revenue of the totalmarket,


 October 2017 /// Environmental Engineering /// 15


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