This month’s markets for PET and natural HDPE have remained stable in price, with little fluctuations.
Mixed bottles are typically in the price range of £85 per tonne for high quality and £30 per tonne for low quality.Clear PET bottles have remained stable, with prices being offered at around £250 per tonne.
Natural HDPE bottles also remain unaffected by the markets, with prices of around £350 per tonne. But this could be subject to change in the coming months. The price of mixed bottles has been pushed down rapidly because of Chinese market restrictions.
This has also resulted in reports of a higher quantity of rigids and mixed plastics available on the UK market.
The 2012 UK Household Plastics Packaging Survey is available to download from the Recoup website (www.recoup.org). Surveying all local authorities in the UK, it is a review of the infra-structure for the collection of household plastics for recycling in the UK, including collection data, methods and practices; issues and opportunities for plastics collections; and potential future collection rates.
Key findings in the survey include:
- 1,192,100 tonnes of plastic packaging entered the UK household waste and recycling systems - 617,100 tonnes of plastic bottles and 600,000 tonnes of pots, tubs and trays.
- Household recycling has become the principal contributor towards achieving plastic packaging recycling targets, making up almost 70% of the 610,000 total plastic packaging recycled.
- 426,591 tonnes of rigid household plastics were collected for recycling, an overall collection rate of 36%.
- 306,259 tonnes of plastic bottles, a recycling rate of 52% - the first time the collection rate has passed the 50% barrier.
- 120,332 tonnes of pot, tubs and trays, a recycling rate of 20% - a 58% increase from the previous year.
- Collection schemes for plastic films are gradually being introduced, with 70 local authorities (17%) offering a collection service.
There is evidence that non-packaging plastic, such as plastic furniture and toys, are starting to be collected from bring schemes in increasing volumes.
It has also been established that the estimated cost of landfilling or treating plastic bottles and pots, tubs and trays placed in residual bins in 2011 provides a compelling business case to collect and recycle these plastics.
It is estimated that the 48% of plastic bottles not collected for recycling cost more than £24m to dispose of, and the value these bottles would attract from reprocessors is an estimated £63.7m.
Markets for pots, tubs and trays are more uncertain, but those not collected for recycling would incur estimated disposal costs of more than £40m a year.
The data clearly shows that plastics collection levels have come a long way since the first survey recorded the collection of 425 tonnes of plastic bottles.
But it is clear that significant changes will be necessary if the UK is serious about achieving the new and ambitious five-year recycling targets for packaging waste for 2013-17 issued in December 2011 by Defra.
These include a 5% yearly growth in plastics packaging recycling targets for businesses obligated under the UK packaging regulations, going from 32% in 2012 to 57% by 2017.
It is acknowledged that profiling plastics packaging collections is difficult because there are so many practical, economic and political variables. But using existing data to meet the targets would mean that almost double the current tonnage of plastics would need to be collected for recycling.
To make this happen, industry needs sensible policy and strategic development - from collection, sorting and reprocessing equipment and technologies, to energy recovery, changes in legislation, and developing practical initiatives such as national plastic recycling communications guidance.
With significant increases in plastic packaging being collected for recycling, if action is not taken the UK will be left with a legacy of poor quality material, which will affect the whole industry.
Stuart Foster, chief executive, Recoup
View of the packaging recovery note market
Plastic PRN prices have surged to within 50p of 2012 highs amid concerns about the long-term impact of China’s Operation Green Fence. One trader has reported that exports of certain packaging grades have fallen by up to 90% and stockpiling of lower grade material is taking place. Fears of a resultant PRN shortfall have driven up prices to £30 per tonne on the spot market, up 200% on the same period last year.
This acute change in market sentiment has coincided with a natural upturn in buying following the submission of obligation data, compounding what is already a strong sellers’ market. But buyers looking to close out their plastic buying early to avoid further escalations in the price will find a market that is short on liquidity.
Sellers remain wary of underselling in light of market conditions, and are likely to view the PRN market with caution until the situation in China become clearer. According to the Environment Agency’s provisional Q1 figures, just over 151,000 tonnes of plastic was recycled, up from 147,000 tonnes the previous year.
Tom Rickerby, senior market operator, The Environment Exchange