China’s waste ban creating circular economy opportunities, research finds

Following China’s ban on solid waste, developed countries are considering “localised circular economy” for domestic waste recycling needs, according to the findings of a new report.

The plastic recycling market is especially likely to experience high growth, due to investments in new technologies, driving the $37.60 billion market towards $39.89 billion in 2019, the research finds.

It suggests overall revenues in the global waste recycling market are expected to increase from $354.7 billion in 2018 to $376.9 billion in 2019, and the volumes generated are set to grow from 29,493.7 million tonnes to 30,190.0 million tonnes during the same period. The industrial segment generated the most waste (non-hazardous, 16,748.8 million tonnes) in 2019, whereas the total volume of plastic waste generated is 280 million tonnes.

“Growing industrialisation and expansion of hazardous waste types will lead to greater waste volumes and drive the need for better management,” said Deepthi Kumar Sugumar, Senior Analyst, Energy & Environment.

“Improved sorting and labelling of hazardous waste will further increase collection volumes, and, thus, revenues. Disruptive technologies like AI, robotics, and drones will aid the optimisation of collection and disposal.”

Disruptive technologies like AI, robotics, and drones will aid the optimisation of collection and disposal

Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, Global Waste Recycling and Circular Economy Market Outlook, 2019, forecasts waste volumes, revenues and services, and examines the latest trends in the waste recycling market.

It highlights the recycling opportunities of different waste streams generated globally and the growth opportunities in countries affected by the waste import ban imposed by China.

It covers the market segments of municipal solid waste (MSW), industrial waste, hazardous waste, Waste Electrical and Electronics (WEEE), construction & demolition (C&D) waste, and plastic waste.

“The volume of e-waste generated is set to increase in developing regions, especially Asia-Pacific, due to the surge in demand and sale of electrical and electronic appliances,” noted Sugumar.

“Many companies are involved in developing various technologies but those employing technologies that are less energy-intensive and leave minimal residues will have an edge.”

The circular economy and sustainability goals will encourage greater innovation, competitiveness, and job creation in the waste recycling market, the research suggests.

Growth opportunities

Frost & Sullivan suggests recycling companies could look to:

  • adopt the retail take back scheme where drop-off drums are placed at various locations for disposing of hazardous waste such as fluorescent lamps, paint, motor oils, and household batteries.
  • offer turnkey retail solutions to handle hazardous waste. This approach is aimed at small-sized retailers; services offered include retail hazardous waste reporting, delivery of store supplies, customised waste segregation, and safe disposal.
  • provide end-of-life battery storage, whereby battery companies manage end-of-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries that usually have at least 50% to 70% capacity left in them.
  • set up kiosks in public places like parks and shopping complexes for depositing packaging plastic.
  • employ thermochemical conversion technology, as it can reduce 90% of the waste and can be used in construction applications.
  • employ pyrolysis technology to treat hazardous waste, since it leaves no harmful residue and can be safely used to produce electricity.
  • innovate technologies that do not use excess chemicals because disposing of them could be a huge environmental concern.
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