December 16, 2009
DeAnne Toto


The typical slowdowns associated with the holiday season have started earlier than usual in 2009, according to sources. A reprocessor based in the Midwest says that in years past, demand began to slow after the Thanksgiving holiday; however, this year, he says he noticed a decline in mid-November. “I’m seeing an increase in domestic and overseas buyers unwilling to take delivery until after the New Year,” he says. “It usually does not happen this soon; it’s usually after Thanksgiving.”

A reprocessor based in the Gulf Coast region adds that production is down overall, as might be expected. “Places that shut down for one week for the holidays are now shutting down for two,” she says.

Scrap generation has been flat to increasing, depending on the grade in question, the Midwest-based reprocessor says. “Manufacturing had a little surge, but that has kind of slowed down in most areas,” he says. Medical manufacturing continues to do well, he adds, as does the agricultural market.

“It’s pretty slow, but we are still bringing in material,” says the reprocessor based in the Gulf Coast region. “People are being conservative about what they sell and when; it’s the same on the buy side.” She adds that she believes there is pent-up demand, but that consumers don’t want to over-buy inventory, particularly as the year comes to a close. The Midwest-based recycler agrees, saying, “People are still not willing to take on a lot of inventory.”

A number of secondary plastics have regained some of the strength they lost when the market declined in the fourth quarter of 2008, though they have not made a full recovery to the highs seen earlier that year. Polycarbonate (PC) demand and generation has seen an increase, the reprocessor based in the Midwest says. “In general, PC is not where it was before the market downturn in the last quarter of 2008, but it has come up a lot on both the export and domestic markets,” he says, estimating that it has regained approximately 80 percent of its value compared to pricing a year and a half ago. 

Demand for polyethylene (PE) has remained strong, the Midwest-based recycler says. However, virgin PE pricing has been declining, which is pushing down pricing for secondary material as well, he adds. Virgin polypropylene (PP) also is declining in price, exerting downward pressure on secondary material, the Midwest recycler notes.
“There is nice domestic demand for ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and ABS/PC,” he adds, noting that pricing is probably 80 percent of where it was a year and a half ago, similar to PC.

The export market continues to be a factor affecting secondary plastics. “All eyes are constantly looking to China,” says the Midwestern reprocessor. “Whatever China does has a direct effect on the rest of the world.” He adds that Chinese buyers are still being selective when it comes to secondary plastics.

The Gulf Coast-based reprocessor adds that Chinese buyers are purchasing higher grade plastics and have been doing so for roughly the last three months. However, she says she thinks this may be because there are fewer domestic buyers for this material, making it available to overseas consumers.

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