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Chinese imports: an absence of clarity

Global – Certainty has become the most precious commodity in the plastic scrap market – but, unfortunately, there is none to be found in relation to the Chinese authorities’€™ intentions regarding imports. With European prices in freefall, many collectors will be forced to consider not sorting their plastics as they are unable to cover the cost of doing so, writes Surendra Borad Patawari in his latest plastics analysis for Recycling International.

In effect, no-one is clear on what will be permitted to enter China and what will be restricted; all plastic scrap – whether production, industrial or consumer waste – falls under the same HS Code, and so if China is going to base the ban on HS Codes then it could mean a complete stop on the country’s imports of plastic scrap. On the other hand, the Chinese authorities might establish a new control system to identify what will be allowed and what will not.

On the European market, prices of LDPE film scrap 98/2 have fallen from their mid-level of Euro 420-430 per tonne to just Euro 270-280. Qualities like mixed colour, which commanded a value of Euro 160-170 per tonne just two months ago, is looking for a home for almost free picked up.

Many streams of unsorted materials are now priced negatively. Sea freights from Europe to China main port were US$ 1000-1100 per 40-foot container in August but have since fallen by US$ 150-200; bookings for September are available at US$ 850-900.

Given the reduction in export activity, freight rates for China could remain soft in the coming month.

Surendra Borad Patawari is chairman of Gemini Corporation N.V. (Belgium) and chairman of BIR’s plastic division.

The full plastics market update will be published in the upcoming issue of Recycling International.

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