Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) traders have warned of a low level of steel recovered in the first quarter of the year, following the release of an Environment Agency (EA) packaging data report.
A spokesperson for trading platform t2e said that steel appeared to be “the most challenging” market in Q1, covering January to March 2014.
In the three months to March, some 78,000 tonnes of steel were accepted for reprocessing or exported, down 27% in comparison to the same quarter last year, figures from the EA indicates.
Dropping in particular was export, which declined 34% year-on-year.
Chris Taylor, PRN trader at other trading platform Clarity Environmental said: “There is talk that low availability of export containers is the cause of this, which does suggest that the material is still there so this may be a temporary shortage.”
Exporters are experiencing increasing shipping costs after the three major shipping companies further raised their prices for routes from the UK to the Middle East, Far East Asia and the US, MRW reported in April.
“Once exports start moving again we could see the [steel] market stabilise,” said Taylor.
Figures for aluminium were also low, noted t2e. This continued the trend of the last quarter of 2013 and reinforced concerns that the current PRN price levels were doing little to boost supplies.
According to the latest available MRW data, aluminium PRNs were trading between £8 and £10 per tonne before Easter.
The market appeared better for other materials, with t2e mentioning a “good flurry of activity and support” especially for glass, plastics and paper.
“Glass has reported mixed results with remelt showing slight growth and aggregate remaining static,” it noted.
Traders said they expected more activity for glass in May, after the EA releases figures for 2014 obligations, which will reflect the lowering of the recycling target from 81% to 75% and amendments to the split between aggregate and remelt applications.
Plastics reported a positive quarter, with almost 200,000 tonnes accepted for reprocessing or exported in the three months to March. This represented a 25% increase in comparison to the same period last year.
“Plastic is strong so it is likely we will see the prices soften,” said Taylor.
Over 810,000 tonnes of paper were accepted for reprocessing or exported, slighly down from the 834,000 reported in the first quarter of last year.