BIR Convention: Plastic Demand Ebbs and Flows

Long-term demand for plastic scrap is deemed positive despite some near-term hiccups.

June 14, 2012
Recycling Today Staff

Some demand and pricing has fallen off in plastic scrap markets in 2012, but speakers at the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) World Recycling Convention Plastics Division meeting still heard about encouraging trends.

Division Chair Surendra Borad of Belgium-based Gemini Corp. N.V. noted that Saudi Arabia-based petrochemical giant Sabic has started into the “business of reprocessed plastics in a rather big way.” Said Borad, “Market forces and market sentiments have compelled the leading petrochemical producers to think of reprocessed materials as complimentary to existing business. This is very positive news.”

Regarding plastic scrap supplies, Borad told delegates, “The availability of plastics from waste electrical and electronics equipment (WEEE) will increase five-fold during the next seven years. This means there will be 10 million metric tons of WEEE scrap, compared to the existing target of 2 million metric tons.”

While such long-term trends are encouraging, market reports from other Plastics Division members pointed to some near-term problems. “Many re-processors inside Europe suffer from a more difficult sale of their granules,” reported Borad, reading from the report of Netherlands-based recycler Peter Daalder of Daly Plastics.

Borad indicated that export markets are not necessarily better, commenting that “demand from India is very low.” Factors causing the weak Indian demand, according to Borad, is the depreciation of the Indian rupee by 10 percent in one month and freight rates from Europe to India that have increased by 150 percent.

Reporting on behalf of Gemini’s U.S. office, Borad said, “The export of PET from the United States has come to almost a standstill as export prices have dropped by around $150 to $200 per metric ton.” He continued, “Still, the domestic U.S. market for PET is stable and, hence, most materials are going to domestic destinations.”

Guest speaker Alessandro Danesi, managing director of Stena Technoworld in Italy, pointed to frequent changes in regulations as a feature in the Italian recycling market. “They are very difficult for us to follow,” he said of Italian regulations. Regarding domestic market conditions, he observed that the collection of WEEE materials in Italy fell around 20 to 25 percent year on year early in 2012.

Guest speaker Stefano Fiore with Italy-based Logistics Group Srl said current EU legislation on trans-boundary movements of waste “is interpreted and applied in Italy differently from the other member countries.”

Recently, Italy repealed an export restriction law after strong objections from the BIR and other groups. Even after the repeal, “many other problems remain,” said Fiore. “Until the difference between waste for disposal and waste for recovery is clarified within the Italian mindset, there is very little possibility that this sector will come into line with the operations of other member countries.”

The 2012 BIR World Recycling Convention was May 30-June 1 at the Rome Cavalieri Hotel in Italy.