“The most important thing to promote bioplastics development is support”

Relevant regulations and supportive measures for the bioplastics industry in China – an Interview with Janice Li, JinHui Group, a leading Chinese coal mining company.

Mrs. Li, could you give us a short overview of the China‘s bioplastics market – in particular which materials are being produced and how is the market developing?

Bioplastic materials produced in China include PBAT, PLA, PHA, PVA, PPC, etc. The combined existing production capacity is about 85,000 tonnes per annum. At present, the majority of biobased and biodegradable raw materials, modified materials and final products, such as shopping bags and food wares etc., are exported to Europe, Australia and US. Bioplastics product consumption in China is minimal. The situation, however, will be changing as Jilin province in North China has launched a policy to ban traditional plastics in certain areas, e.g. shopping bags and disposable food packaging from January 1, 2015. A market demand of 20,000 tonnes of bioplastic products is estimated from the ban on plastics in Jilin in 2015, and we foresee other provinces in China following Jilin with similar policies. That will open a huge market for bioplastics in China.

Is there a specific policy framework in place and/or what measures and/or initiatives would be required in China to guarantee strong development in the bioplastics market in the future?

A central government policy – “Ban on Plastic Bags” – has been in place since June 1, 2008 under which the plastic shopping bags thinner than 0.025 millimeter are not allowed to be produced, sold and used in China. All supermarkets, shopping malls and wet markets are requested to provide priced plastic shopping bags only; free plastic shopping bags have been banned in China. Following this policy, a few provinces in China also launched provincial policies to restrict the use of traditional plastic bags. Yunnan Province, for example, implemented a trial project for agricultural film. However, the effect did not live up to expectations and most of the projects were terminated half way through due to the weak policy implementation. In view of China’s political and economic system, the most important thing to promote bioplastics development in China is support and encouragement from government. The Chinese government needs to formulate more specific regulations and emphasize their implementation. In early 2014, the Jilin provincial government launched a policy to ban traditional plastic products in certain areas including shopping bags and disposable food packaging. Learning from prior experience, the Jilin government issued the detailed and specific regulations to ensure the implementation of the new policy.

PBAT production facility of JinHui Group in China

PBAT production facility of JinHui Group in China

They also encouraged domestic and international bioplastics producers to set up factories in Jilin to supply the local market. As a result many bioplastics materials and final product producers have settled in High Technology Industry Zone in Changchun City, the capital of Jilin Province. The JinHui Group is part of this development as one of the big players in the bioplastics sector. With the full backing of the provincial government and Jinlin’s NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission), I am confident that Jilin will achieve the target becoming the first successful region in China to undertake such a move. As I understand, other provinces are passing similar regulations. This trend will significantly change the standing of the bioplastics industry in China.

What is the current situation regarding standardization, certification and labelling in China. Is there any progress in these areas?

EN 13432 is one of the most important global standards for the bioplastics industry. It has been successfully introduced in China. In fact, as China’s products are largely exported to Europe and the US, producers have had to conform to international standards from the beginning. The same applies to our company whose certified compostable products are labelled with the seedling. We rely on standards like EN13432, ASTM D6400 and labels like FDA, Din etc., to provide information to our clients. We are also required to conform to the national quality standard, which is consistent with the international standards.

How does China’s role as a producer and converter of bioplastic materials compare to other Asian countries that aspire to be hubs for bioplastics production such as Thailand?

China is set to become the world largest bioplastic producer and converter within three to five years. The consumption of bioplastics depends largely on government policy. However, this is the direction, it will happen sooner or later. Thailand is doing well, and we can learn a lot from them. However, it cannot compete with China in terms of the overall size of production capacity and the potential market. I believe that China will become the hub for bioplastics production in Asia and globally.

What role does the JinHui Group have in China’s bioplastic development?

When we decided to enter the bioplastics industry in 2012, we were under huge pressure as the market for bioplastic products was very difficult. However, we believe in taking a long-term approach towards business and that our children will benefit from our hard work in the future. The JinHui Group currently has 20,000 mts PBAT production capacity in place. Our target is to become a top bioplastics enterprise globally in terms of technology, product range, services and market influence. Apart from this, we would like to work with our partners, competitors and the Chinese government to push forward bioplastics development in China making it a hub for bioplastics production in Asia and globally.

Source: European Bioplastics

Janice Li, JinHui Group (Photos: JinHui Group)