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Another year of growth for recycled metals production

Production of the major recycled non-ferrous metals in China is on course to exceed 17.5 million tons in 2023; between January and September, total production was showing a year-on-year increase of 5.45% to 13.05 million tons while, for the whole year, an increase of more than 6% is envisaged over 2022. Looking further ahead, production of the major recycled non-ferrous metals is expected to exceed 20 million tons in 2025, with the industry as a whole showing a steady uptrend.

When compared to primary metal smelting, China’s recycled non-ferrous metals industry is expected this year to: save 3.87 million tons of standard coal as well as 2.4 billion tons of water; reduce emissions of solid waste by 2 billion tons and of sulfur dioxide by 620,000 tons; and cut carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 150 million tons.

With the continuous growth of the global economy, demand for resources is increasing such that the importance of recycled metals to resource security becomes self-evident. In industrialized countries, the recycled metals industry is large-scale and recycling rates are high; for example, the utilization rate of recycled metals in the USA is up to 70% whereas their share in China is less than a quarter that of primary non-ferrous metals.

China is a resource-poor country with insufficient non-ferrous metal mineral resources. According to statistics, China relies on imports for 18 out of 22 of its important non-ferrous metals, of which 12 have an external dependence exceeding 50%. High levels of external dependence, concentrated import sources and safety of transportation channels all pose potential risks to supply.

Central and local governments are attaching greater importance to the advantages of resource security and energy conservation. Other recycling-related developments include: a continuous accumulation of industries in regions with a foundation in raw materials; enterprises shifting their focus from scale growth to improving quality; continuous optimization of industrial structure; increasingly fierce competition for high-quality raw materials; continuous expansion of market space; and continuous highlighting of the effectiveness of energy conservation and carbon reduction.