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A new type of urbanization plan put forwardby the Chinese government provides plenty of impetus for the plastics industry.The construction of pipelines, refurbishment of old buildings, demand forhousehold appliances and mobility will further drive up plastics consumption.


Sponge city will create plenty of opportunity for plastic pipes processing.
Sponge city will create plenty of opportunity for plastic pipes processing.

The national plan (2014-2020) on the basic principles, objectives and milestones for urbanization was unveiled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on March 16, 2014.

By 2020, permanent urban residents should reach 60% of the populace. It means 100 million migrant workers and other permanent urban residents should get city household registration.

Accordingly, the demand for urban infrastructure will increase, which in turn will trigger the development of a number of industries, including plastics processing.

The use of plastics in construction is an emerging trend. It is being seen as the fourth most important material for the industry, ranking behind steel, wood, and cement. Demand for certain kind of polymers to produce pipes, waterproof products, decorations, window and door profiles, insulation etc. has increased noticeably.

As large amount of rural population migrate into urban cities, the demand for mobility and home appliances increases as well. The plastics industry is poised to benefit from key trends such as replacing steel with plastics, automotive weight reduction, and the pursuit of slimmer and stylish home appliances.

Construction of sponge city

Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang delivered the annual government work report at the fifth session of the 12th National People’s Congress in March this year, who explicitly called for the construction of more sponge cities to solve urban flooding.

A sponge city is an environment-friendly concept in city planning that attaches great significance to the underground pipe network design and construction so that rainwater can be collected and recycled for multiple uses.

Although the central authority proposed to build sponge cities in 2015 and set an ambitious goal of 80% of China’s urban area being a “sponge” by 2030, the progress has been slow, with only 30 cities earmarked and supported by the central government as pilot cities to tryout the idea.

The Premiere said the government will construct underground pipe networks of more than 2,000km this year and initiate a three-year plan to prevent flooding and eradicate waterlogging in urban areas. The construction of sponge cities will trigger new opportunities for plastic pipes processing and waterproof products.

During the 13th Five-Year Plan, the production of plastic pipes is expected to maintain an annual growth of 3%. By 2020, the production volume nationwide will reach approximately 16 million tons.
As China pushes for greater urbanization level, more overhead cable systems will go underground.
Among other applications, products related to sewage treatment will be the major beneficiary. This is particularly the case for the improvement of water supply and sewage system in urban areas. According to industry forecasts, plastic pipes will account for more than 55% of the market.

Urbanization is an unwavering fundamental policy of China, which will help to speed up the construction of residential and commercial properties in the municipalities of Central and Western China as well as in 2nd and 3rd Tier cities. The demand for plastic pipe will increase during the course. Waterproof materials will also be in high demand due to the need of rooftop gardening.

The guideline issued by the State Council to promote a new type of urbanization also call for improvement and arrangement of underground infrastructures, including power supply, communication, radio and television broadcasting, water supply, heat supply, and pipelines for fuels.

As for developed cities, the guideline emphasizes the underground relocation of existing overhead power grid and communication cable systems.

Plastics is used substantially in the wire and cable industry as an insulation material and protective layer, thanks to its insulation performance, low density, low costs, ease of molding and pleasing appearance. The material can be found in power supply, power grid, communication and signal control systems, etc.

Polyethylene (PE), cross-linked PE, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP), fluoropolymer and polyamide (PA) are typically used in wire and cable industry, of which PE holds the largest market shares.

Renovation of old buildings

Plastics is an indispensable material for energy-efficient buildings. In his work report, Premiere Li mentioned that “several dozen million people still live in rundown areas in cities and towns”, and that the government “must continue housing renovations in these areas”, with a target of 6 million housing units being renovated this year.

Plastics is an essential material for reducing energy consumption of buildings.As an emerging material for the construction industry, plastic has become more serialized, with comprehensive product types that fulfill standardized specifications, especially under the increasing conformity to energy requirements.

China’s national climate committee calls for 50% of all new buildings constructed by 2020 to be certified as “green buildings”.

Meanwhile, according to the State Council’s Green Building Action Plan, the cost of renovating old building for higher energy efficiency is estimated at RMB200/sqm, which indicates an enormous market that worth as much as RMB 260 million.

The use of plastics is encouraged, as they help to meet the requirements of “green building”, which provide a better living environment and satisfy the specific needs for residential and industrial production. Therefore, high performance polymer is congruent with the pursuit of eco-friendly and energy efficient economic development in China, and is favored strongly under government policy.

For instance, polyurethane (PU) is a common type of insulation material. 1cm3 of PU is able to reduce CO2 emission by 270kg. If 1 million tons of PU is consumed, the reduction of CO2 would amount to 7 million tons each year.

Household appliance made of plastics

Urbanization does not simply means providing a living place for rural population in cities. Indeed, it calls for the improvement of their living standards empowered by increasing income and consumption level.
Many household appliances come with plastics parts and covers.
Bigger spending power has spurred the consumption of home appliances, particularly for newer, better designs with sophisticated functions which also consumes less energy.

Plastic is used extensively in the manufacture of home appliances. Its vivid color choice is appealing for the manufacture of housing and cases. Thanks to material technology advancement, its hardness, mechanical property, impact resistance and tensile strength has substantially improved.

Equally important is the heat resistance of high performance polymers, which is a must as many home appliances generate heat when they are working.

The home appliance industry consumes million tons of plastics annually, even substituting steel parts and components. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polystyrene (PS), engineering plastics, modified plastics and plastic blends are among the popular choice of materials.

Replacing steel with plastics in vehicles

The demand for mobility comes hand in hand with urbanization. As a capital, technical and labor intensive industry, automotive can also drives forward the level of urbanization. When an area is urbanized to a certain extent, the demand for cars, particularly for private vehicles, will begin to accelerate.

Replacing steel with plastics is a growing trend in the automotive industry.As Premier Li encouraged “the use of clean-energy cars” in his government report, the already buzzing new energy vehicle sector has another newfound momentum.

China’s 6/VI Emission Standards for Light- and Heavy-duty Vehicles, which is the most stringent standard in history, will be implemented in 2020.

On the other hand, the Roadmap for Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicles drafted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology clearly defined the target: in 2020, the average fuel economy will be 5L per 100km, going up to 4L in 2025 and 3.2L by 2030.

To achieve such targets, lightweight construction is an inevitable trend in the automotive industry, which calls for advancement of material innovations.

Of the different vehicle weight reduction solutions, replacing steel with plastics is seen as the most effective way. It has become a popular choice of material of automakers and suppliers, particularly in production of exterior and interior components.

In recent years, the continuous development of material technology has substantially enhanced the mechanical performances of polymers including hardness, impact resistance, tensile strength, etc. while remaining low in density.

Engineering plastics are now used for production of car windows, doors, structural parts, and even under-the-hood applications. As new energy vehicle getting more popular, it will drive up the consumption of plastics for parts like battery case and plug-in charger.

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