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Aluminium recovers after IBA protocol changes

The provisional packaging data for the third quarter has been published, allaying earlier concerns about the aluminium target but indicating uncertainties in the final quarter for plastic and steel.

The returns indicate that aluminium hit 73.5% the first three quarters of the year.

Phil Conran, director of 360 Environmental and chair of Defra’s Advisory Committee on Packaging, said there had been concern for aluminium after Q2 that changes to allow tonnage from incinerator bottom ash had not had the desired effect.

Writing on the 360 website, Conran says: “Extensive efforts were made to identify where all this material was going and, as can be seen, a combination of additional accreditations and an increase in UK aluminium can recycling has achieved a massive jump, which should now see targets being met, although it will still be tight.”

Rick Hindley, executive director of the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, said the reported aluminium packaging recycling was its highest ever quarterly performance.

“With more reprocessors coming on-stream, we are increasingly confident that aluminium will not only achieve the 2015 recycling target, but also that in future the figures will be a more accurate picture of the amount of aluminium packaging recycled in the UK or exported for recycling,” he said.

“We are very pleased to see that new reprocessors are becoming accredited to the system, and are grateful to Defra and the national environment agencies for working to bring about these changes.”

The recycling data is provisional and due to be confirmed in mid-November.

Conran also pointed out that plastic (73.2%) and steel (80.8%) were in “healthy” positions after Q2 but demand for plastic from the Far East tightened in Q3 and PRN prices doubled.

“This has been borne out by the data which shows a 12% drop over Q2, mostly from a reduction in exports,” said Conran. “This creates quite a challenge for Q4 but, as has regularly occurred before, these sorts of gaps are not insurmountable for plastic, especially with high PRN prices.

“But it certainly highlights the scale of the task for next year, especially if we are left with little or no carry over.”

Steel remains in an uncertain position, he said, following the plant closures this month and an ability to hit the annual target may depend on exports. He notes that glass has been buoyant, with UK reprocessing levels in the quarter the highest they have been since 2012.

Paper and wood have already hit their 2015 targets.

Chris Taylor, Clarity Enviromental’s commercial manager

“Plastic is one grade that has not performed well in the last quarter, as a result of reduced plastic exports to China for recycling. This could leave the market extremely tight come the end of the year.

“Steel, which has seen rising prices in recent weeks, continues to leave the market well ahead of where it needs to be. However with the recent developments in the global steel industry and high profile industry closures, the grade is likely to be tighter than the data suggests come January. 

“Aluminium, which has seen problems for much of the year, seems to be on its way to recovery. The protocol changes that were introduced, allowing reprocessors to back-date PRNs, seem to be doing the job they were intended to do and the outlook is a lot better than it looked at the end of Q2.

“Paper, wood and glass (both remelt and other) are performing well and there should be no problems meeting 2015 targets. It is also a relief for the recovery market as paper and wood are so far ahead of their requirement that the excess left behind by a poor recovery return will be filled with ease.”

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