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The prospects for China's recycling industry
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-03-16 09:10

Great efforts in developing the recycling industry can effectively relieve China's problem of resource shortage.

China is a country in which the per capita resources are comparatively short of. The per capita occupancy of 45 major resources is less than a half of the average value in the world, and the per capita reserves of such important mineral resources as petroleum, natural gas, copper, aluminum, etc. are respectively 8.3 percent, 4.1 percent, 25.5 percent, and 9.7 per cent of the average per capita occupancy in the world.

As far as the current situation is concerned, 400 major diggings in China have entered into their middle and late periods with the utilization rate decreasing to less than 30 percent and the exploitation costs becoming 2-4 times of those abroad, and most of which have become a heavily-stricken area of pollution and casualty.

With a view on the future, only 11 out of 45 major mineral resources in China can rely on the country itself for guarantee the supplies while such important mineral resources like iron ores and alumina, which are significant for the national economic safety, will be short of for a long run. On the other hand, there are 5 million tons of used steel and iron, over 200,000 tons of non-ferrous metal, 14 million tons of waste paper and a great volume of waste plastic and waste glass that could be recycled and utilized within China each year; even those having been recycled and utilized are also treated with simple forms giving priority to the limited recycle of materials, the recycle and utilization rate is comparatively low due to the shortage of resource recycle on a higher level with the content of product reutilization and remanufacture.
It is estimated that if the 14 million tons of waster paper in China were recycled for utilization, 11.2 million tons of fresh paper could be produced, 240 million trees could continue to grow, and a half of the papermaking energy sources could be saved. Therefore, to develop the recycling industry with great efforts can effectively relieve China's increasingly severe problems in terms of resource shortage.

To develop the recycling industry with great efforts can effectively relieve the pressure on China's environment carrying capability.

Ever since the beginning of reform and opening-up, China's economy has been growing rapidly in a sustained way. But the extensive way of the growth have caused severe pollution to our environment. For instance, China's discharged wastewater can add up to 43.95 billion tons, which has surpassed 82 percent of the environment carrying capacity. As shown by the " Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI)" relieved to assess the quality of environment in all countries (regions) all over the world in Davos, Switzerland, China ranks the 133rd among the 144 countries and regions across the world. Severe environmental problems have become an important factor restricting the sustainable development of China, but to develop the recycling industry can effectively relieve the pressures on China's environment carrying capacity.

Great efforts to develop the recycling industry can increase employment posts. As a whole, the recycling industry is a labor-intensive industry; so, great efforts to develop the recycling industry can both effectively make use of China's comparative advantages and increase employment posts so as to relieve the pressures on employment. The investigation shows that with every import of 10,000 tons of waste material, there will be an increment of 1000 employment.
For the moment, there have existed nearly 10 million dismantling enterprises in the Changjiang River Delta and the Pearl River Delta, thus shaping up the industrial chain of "imports of waste and used products – exports of new products regenerated -- imports of waste and used products" and processing areas, which have not only promoted the rapid development of the local economies but also have created the employment of tens of millions people. In addition, the network of reclaiming waste and used materials, which spreads all over the middle and large cities in China, has become an important channel to solve the employment issues for migrant workers from the countryside.
There lack a sufficient realization of the development of the recycling industry. Experts pointed out that waste and used materials are a kind of "resource misplaced and mixed together" and the solely increasing "rich ore" across the world that will sooner or later replace the underground mineral resources and can be found everywhere. But in China, some people still have their misunderstanding of the development of the recycling industry at present, thus sometimes equating the reclaiming and utilization of recycled resources with counterfeiting and pollutions to the environment; still, some people confusingly regard imported waste and used materials as "imported garbage", "losing face" and "a damage to the national image". In foreign countries, people engaged in the recycling industry are called "engineers creating the future" with respect; but here in China, they are called "kings of garbage", "scrap-collectors", "the gang of beggars", "the army of rake" etc. and suffer their disadvantaged social status. In some places, the "recycle industry" was even called off as the reclaiming of waste and used materials influences the image of a city. All such phenomena are severely holding back the development of China's recycling industry.

The objectives for the development of the industry are not clear. For a long period of time, there has not formed the market-centered tenet for social service in China's recycling industry; thus, there lacks an explicit objective for the development of the industry.

Relevant laws and regulations as well as policies are distempered. In order to make the best use of recycled resources, some developed countries in the west have put forth laws and regulations as well as policies to encourage the development of the recycle economy successively, which have greatly driven the development of the recycling industry. But in China, laws and regulations as well as policies that promote the development of the recycling industry are insufficient, thus making people and enterprises doubtful about the development of the industry and less confident so as to dare not invest too many funds to enlarge the operational scale and improve the technological level.
The resource recycle technologies lag comparatively far behind. Due to insufficient emphasis and comparatively less investment, China's R&D capabilities in resource recycle are rather weak, which leads to the behind-lagging technics in processing waste and used materials and the comparatively low level of technologies and equipment. Thus, there exists a rather huge gap between the reality and the requirements on the integrated utilization of resources and environmental protection. Especially, the reclaiming and utilization technologies in such waste and used materials like storage batteries, dry batteries, computers, TV sets, and refrigerators still lag behind comparatively, which has led to a failure to make effective use of a great deal of electronic "garbage". In recent years, it is still difficult to spread and apply some of the applicable advanced technologies due to the lack of funds although the state has reinforced the research and development of relevant technologies and has made some achievements. 
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