By Lauren Hilgers, Plastics News Correspondent
Guangzhou, China -- Looking to attract Chinese companies interested in self-improvement, the arrival of Rapra Ltd at ChinaPlas 2009 signalled the organisation's belief that Chinese plastics companies will soon be on the move.
"The companies that are going to be most interested in us are those who want to do work outside of China," said Richard Walton, membership director of the Shrewsbury, England-based not-for-profit organisation. "Those companies are going to have to comply with different requirements and standards as they move into new markets."
As part of the initiative, Rapra is supporting its sister company, the iSmithers unit of Shrewsbury-based Smithers Rapra Technology Ltd, in holding the sixth international REACH and GHS conference in Shanghai this September, discussing new chemical regulations in the European Union.
Rapra, or Rubber and Plastics Research Association, has been operating in Europe since 1919, offering plastics and rubber companies assistance with research, product testing, training and information. In 2002, Rapra split, separating its research and membership arms into two different entities. Eventually, in 2006, Smithers Group acquired the research and consulting arm and formed Smithers Rapra Technology.
"For a year we focused on taking care of our existing members," Walton said. "We had to figure out what these changes would mean."
Now, however, Rapra is looking to expand. It has created a one-year position in Shanghai to help advertise its services. Next year, said Walton, it is likely the organisation will create a permanent representative office.
There may be a limited number of Chinese companies willing to make the investment, but Walton is not expecting membership numbers to balloon overnight. In Europe and the US combined, the organization has around 150 member companies.
"Many are companies that you wouldn't expect," Walton said. "Some are retailers that have to deal with safety and quality concerns."
While currently only companies can become members, Rapra is currently toying with the idea of offering a separate membership package for individuals. This kind of package, Walton said, would help students access the information and databases that Rapra has to offer.
Member companies have access to databases maintained by Smithers Rapra, as well as testing and analytical lab services. Other Smithers Rapra services, like technical research and consultancy, are offered to members at a discount.
"Even though markets are quiet, we're growing relatively quickly," Walton said. "Companies that have quiet times sometimes go into new areas - areas a bit out of their comfort zone."