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TRA: Don’t blame exports for plastic recyclers’ woes

United Kingdom – The Recycling Association in the UK has questioned reports blaming the role of exports and the packaging recovery note (PRN) system for the difficulties currently being experienced by PET and HDPE bottle recycler Closed Loop Recycling.

The association’s ceo Dr Simon Ellin insists ‘the primary reason for the current difficulties in the plastics industry is the downward pressure on the global price of oil’. Describing this as ‘a short-term problem’, he adds that plastics reprocessors need to ride these fluctuations ‘by being in a position to pass the burden down the supply chain’.

And he continues: ‘We have repeatedly highlighted that if we want a sustainable recycling infrastructure then the companies at the top of the supply chain, in this case the retailers, need to make a contribution. The time is now right to nurture this relationship by assisting the likes of Closed Loop financially to ensure that recycled polymer is favoured over virgin.’ Any measures taken to skew the market in favour of either the UK or export would be ‘short-term madness’ and would ‘negatively impact the whole recycling infrastructure’, according to Ellin.

In particular, he labels as ‘wrong’ the changes proposed by the British Plastics Federation (see our April 9 online news), including a split target for plastic packaging recovered domestically and overseas. A large proportion of plastics recovered domestically are exported ‘because we simply don’t have the capacity in the UK and it is this market that the merchants collecting the materials rely on’.

Export markets also provide the competition element that keeps prices higher and sustainable in the long term, notes Ellin. To lay the blame on the role of exports and to moot distorting the markets by manipulating the PRN system ‘is a very dangerous short-term solution’, he underlines.

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