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German 'solutions' to help China recycle waste

Updated: 2012-04-27 21:36
By Cecily Liu (

Alba Group, the world's largest exporter of scrap metals to China, may offer "comprehensive solutions" to China to help the country's recycling industry get greener.

The German company wants to further support the Chinese economy's sustainable growth through recycling initiatives.

"China is a very important market for Alba Group. We are constantly enlarging our offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing", Alba's CEO Axel Schweitzer told China Daily at this year's ongoing Hannover Messe, Germany's annual industrial and technological show.

The Messe, held from Monday to Friday, has attracted some 5,000 exhibitors from 65 countries and regions. Almost half of these exhibitors come from outside Germany, among which nearly 600 came from China, partner country this year.

Alba, a waste management and recycling company founded in 1968 in Berlin, started exporting recycled material to China 20 years ago, including scrap metal, paper and plastic.

These wastes all undergo treatment in Europe, so that they can be used in production once arriving in China. As raw material is expensive, China increasingly sees purchasing recycled material from Western countries as a viable alternative.

But going forward, Schweitzer said that Alba is looking into the possibility of offering comprehensive solutions to help China meet its environmental protection goal, including consulting and project delivery.

"Increasing need for raw materials supply and environmental protection in China are drivers for a development similar to Germany where secondary raw materials are an economic and ecological solution," Schweitzer said.

He said that Alba's technological, operational and management know-how in Europe can be used to help China's recycling industry become greener.

For example, Alba is currently exploring the possibility of turning Chinese household waste into an alternative fuel called "Green Coal".

In Germany, the "Green Coal" Alba produces are used in coal power plants resulting in a considerable carbon emissions reduction compared with using brown coal.

But he is also aware of the differences between China and Germany, and believes that Alba should provide local solutions specific to China's market.

For example, household waste in Germany is collected by large businesses, whereas in China it tends to be collected by self-employed individuals, which makes recycling more difficult to regulate.

Rather than cooperating with the individual waste collectors like Alba does in Germany, Schweitzer said that Alba should cooperate more with municipal governments or state owned enterprises as a more efficient way to see its technologies implemented.

Schweitzer noted that while China's exhibition at the Hannover Messe is themed "Green & Intelligence", the fair's theme is "Greentelligence", and said the similarity between the two shows green technology to be a common goal between China and Germany.

China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), which was released last March, marked a turning point from China's previous emphasis on headline growth, to focus on sustainable growth.

Over the five years to 2015, China aims to cut the amount of energy and carbon dioxide emissions needed for every unit of economic output by 16 and 17 percent per unit of GDP respectively.

"Our vision for the next five years is for ALBA Group to play a significant role in the Chinese recycling industry," Schweitzer said.

Alba currently has 25 employees in China, including some young engineers who have previously been trained in Alba's German office.

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