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Plastics - 22 March

The prices of plastics this month have remained largely stable, with the largest price fluctuation noted in the natural HDPE fraction. This has increased to £350 per tonne.

Clear PET has remained stable, with prices at £230-£280 per tonne. Mixed bottles have not moved, remaining at £160 per tonne for high- quality material and £85 per tonne lower quality.

There has been a lot of recent focus surrounding plastics recycling in Europe. The European Commission has issued a green paper on European strategy on plastic waste in the environment (MRW.co.uk/8643845.article).

Its main focus is on plastic waste, and it aims to launch a structured discussion on the sustainability of plastic products throughout their lifecycle. It also aims to focus the discussion on the impact of plastic waste on the environment.

The document notes that plastic is a durable resource but can cause environmental problems, especially for marine life. This is an emerging global issue and there is a lot of work going into finding solutions.

Ecover recently announced an initiative with Closed Loop Recycling to use recycled HDPE collected from waste marine plastic for use in its new bottles (mrw.co.uk/ 8643867.article).

The green paper states that half of all plastics in Europe go to landfill, with only 21% ending up being recycled. More specifically, the amount of plastics packaging recycled in Europe is around one-third, with another third being recovered for heat or energy.

A lot of work has been done by recycling organisations within Europe, such as EPRO, the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations, to develop and deliver sustain-able solutions for plastics recovery and recycling and this will continue.

This lack of recycling is no longer sustainable, and we must all work together to divert plastics from landfill while still producing high- quality recyclate. The green paper includes suggestions such as a landfill ban, specific plastic waste recycling targets and eco-design, which are all possible solutions to increase recycling rates.

Such policies, if implemented, could create new economic activities, promote resource efficiency and generate jobs across Europe.

The consultation is due to run until the end of June, with results feeding into policy development in 2014 as part of a broader waste policy review. This will also look at the current EU targets for waste recovery and recycling.

Recoup supports the aims of the green paper and will respond before the May deadline.

Stuart Foster, Chief executive, Recoup

European groups respond to Green Paper

Groups representing the plastics sector across Europe have welcomed the green paper aimed at dealing with plastic waste. Ten million tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste go to landfill every year.

Plastics Recyclers Europe called the document a “starting point” towards increased sustainability. It said that a landfill ban, recycling targets and eco-design would all lead to increased recycling. President To Emans noted that the total annual production of European plastics recyclers covered only a fortnight of the annual consumption in the continent, saying: “this situation is no longer sustainable.”

Plastic Converters managing director Alexandre Dangis said: “At times when future polymer sourcing for European plastics converters remains unpredictable and uncertain, there is a clear need to optimise the collection and sorting of plastics waste in order for the plastics industry to be more resource-efficient.”

Source: European Plastics News

PRN trading: prices affected as plastic export routes into china are disrupted

Sentiment in the plastic PRN market seems to change with the seasons. The 5% target increase had initially led to bullish forecasts for 2013. But record PRN generation in the second half of 2012 and

a 40,000-tonne carry-over eased market concerns about the possibility of escalating PRN prices.

With the recovered plastics markets making a strong start to 2013, it looked as if the momentum built up in the latter half of 2012 was set to continue. PRN prices on t2e fell from £18 to £15 on early trading before stabilising at £15.50 in January and February.

But early signs of a market ‘spring’ have again brought a far gloomier outlook to the market. China’s Operation Green Fence - a clampdown on the import of low-quality plastics and more stringent customs inspections - has caused major disruption to the UK plastic export market, and several routes into China have ground to a standstill.

Whether this is a short-term political PR exercise or a genuine turning point for recovered plastic quality standards remains to be seen.

However, any disruption to a market that is so fundamental to the UK meeting its recycling target is likely to have significant implications on the PRN market. March prices are already up 24% to £20 per tonne, and many sellers have stepped back from the market until the situation in China becomes clearer.

Tom Rickerby, senior market operator, The Environment Exchange (t2e)

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