Business philosophy – Recycling industry’s market dynamics

During my recent visit to two events in Amsterdam, BIR 2023 and PRSE Amsterdam Exhibition, both held in May, I noticed a decreasing participation of Chinese attendees compared to previous similar conventions. Even among the few Chinese participants, most were from Southeast Asian countries, the United States, and Europe. Speaking with some Chinese acquaintances at the events, I learned that the demand for processed recycled materials in China has diminished, reducing the significance of these events for the Chinese market. It’s noteworthy that these events used to be dominated by Chinese businessmen, whereas now they seem to be replaced  by countries like India, Pakistan, Turkey, Arab countries, and Southeast Asian nations.

While countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand are still recycling metals and plastics, their competitiveness is weaker compared to India and Pakistan. The loss of competition is due to the additional costs of freight and customs duties involved in importing waste materials into Malaysia and Thailand for recycling and exporting the processed materials to China for the production of goods for overseas markets. On the other hand, India and Pakistan can benefit from cheaper labor and lower operational costs. They also have regulations that allow the direct import of waste materials, which can be processed into products for domestic consumption or exported to other countries. China no longer permits waste material imports. Consequently, although some Chinese recyclers have relocated to Southeast Asian countries, most have faced closure due to their heavy reliance on the Chinese market for their recycled materials.

Some Chinese recyclers have moved their businesses to Eastern Europe to recycle at the source and avoid regulatory issues during export. Moreover, the European market demonstrates a higher demand for recycled materials as they are used in sustainable circular economies, and local buyers are willing to pay higher prices for these materials compared to new ones.

During my trip, I had the opportunity to meet Chinese individuals who had moved from China to Asian countries. Their factories were shut down due to government crackdowns on illegal operations in Southeast Asia. Since 2018, they have relocated to Europe, and after five to six years of operation, they have begun to adapt to the environment, culture, and business practices. I was glad to see them starting to learn the local language, culture, and some even attending church.

Chinese friends invited me to their Airbnb accommodations and prepared a delicious dinner with fresh seafood from a local supermarket. Our conversations covered various topics, including family, life, religion, politics, and business, while also discussing long-term cooperation and partnerships to achieve shared goals.

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