The word ‘workaholic’ could have been invented to describe Yulin Wang. A 37-year-old married man with one kid, he works 16 hours a day, six days a week; he spends half of the year in his native China and the other half travelling across Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. So, over the years, he must have accumulated zillions of frequent-flyer miles.
He started in the recycling business in 1992 in his home town of Hangzhou, located some 300 kilometres north-east of Shanghai. He began with local collections of recovered paper but soon graduated to importing material from the USA. Mr Wang explains: ‘That was fine for some years but, as from 1996, US companies started to sell paper direct to the Chinese paper mills and, as a result, my margins dropped. So I decided to travel throughout Europe in search of recovered paper and plastics. But I soon found out that trading with China was still difficult in those days, so I decided to set up a company in Europe.’
The move to Europe
It was a decade ago that Mr Wang opened Fuxing Lokeren in Belgium, changing the company’s name in 2001 to Oriental Recycling and moving to Turnhout, also in Belgium. As his European business prospered, Mr Wang decided to build a PET bottle processing plant in Hamburg, Germany. Opened in 2003, it now processes around 10 000 tonnes of plastics and a similar volume of recovered paper. In that same year, Mr Wang started up a turn-key plastics processing and fibre manufacturing facility in Turkey. He is currently building a second plant near Istanbul.
Oriental Recycling buys metals, recovered paper and virtually all grades of plastics - although mainly PET and LDPE/LLDPE - from all over Europe. Currently, the Fuxing group is China’s leading importer of PET with volumes totalling some 180 000 tonnes per year. In addition, Oriental Recycling sells fibres that have been processed at one of his plants in China; early in 2007, Fuxing plans to start building another large-scale PET and LDPE processing plant at Geel in Belgium.
‘Because we produce our own fibres from PET, I decided that it would be wise also to build a plant that would manufacture carpets,’ notes Mr Wang. ‘Our Fuxing carpet factory in Hangzhou has stateof-the-art machines from Europe and currently has a workforce of 150 people.’ At one stage, he even owned his own paper mill but sold it after a couple of years. ‘But we still sell finished paper products,’ he says with a smile.