Global – In August, a month in which crude oil prices crashed, a large number of Asian recyclers looked to renegotiate the prices of open orders for plastics scrap while some of them ‘were not even in a position to pay the balance on cargoes that had landed at their destination’. For exporters, ‘this brought back memories of 2008’, comments BIR plastics committee chairman Surendra Borad Patawari of Gemini Corporation NV in a review of recent developments within the international market.
With crude oil prices climbing almost 10% at the beginning of October, greater stability reigned among LDPE scrap values and collectors/waste generators began the process of pushing up prices. However, polystyrene scrap prices have still been falling as prime plastic values went down by Euro 170-200 per ton at the start of October.
Although many new recycling facilities are emerging in Europe, there is still ‘a long way to go’ to address the ‘real pity’ of around 8 million tonnes of plastics scrap being landfilled annually in Europe, according to Borad. ‘The continent recycles only 25% of its plastics scrap when Japanese, Chinese and Indian recycling rates are above 50%,’ he points out.
The EU will need to invest perhaps Euro 5 billion, he contends, if it is to match such rates as planned by the year 2025. As regards the ‘frenzy of activity’ surrounding the possible granting of raw material status to plastics scrap, Borad hails this as ‘very encouraging’.
Success in this endeavour ‘would reduce substantially the administrative burdens on the recycling industry’ and ‘provide a big boost to international trade, both in terms of imports and exports’. Borad also reiterates his plea for carbon credits to be applied to the recycling of plastics.
Executive president of the China Scrap Plastics Association, Dr Steve Wong of Fukutomi Co Ltd, points to tumbling values of plastics scrap in China over recent months owing to slow demand and tight liquidity, affecting everything from general plastics to engineering plastics. ‘Prices of most plastic scrap items went down by around a half or even more by the end of September,’ he says.
Demand and prices have been particularly poor for the mixed plastics coming from both post-consumer and post-industrial sources, as well as for materials that require manual sorting and washing (apart from shredded WEEE materials).
While still falling victim to price cuts, 100, 98, 95 and 90 PE films have been ‘faring better’ than other forms of scrap because demand ‘is still huge and consistent’. Wong identifies a number of reasons for these market conditions, including: the global economy not performing as well as expected; and China losing its competitive edge over other developing countries.
As a result, many operators are shifting their facilities elsewhere to tap into more competitive production costs. The plastics scrap market in China is not expected to pick up until early 2016 at the earliest, he adds.
This article is based on the latest World Mirror on Plastics produced by the BIR world recycling organisation for the benefit of its members.
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