During the Plastics Division meeting at the Brusssels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) Autumn Round-Table Sessions, Plastics Committee Chairman Surendra Borad of Gemini Corp., Antwerp, Belgium, mentioned three factors he said were driving secondary plastics markets: China’s Operation Green Fence, changes in Europe’s political mindset toward the environment and the economy and the impact of U.S. shale gas and oil on the plastics industry in general.
Echoing statements made by many recyclers throughout the past several months, Borad said Operation Green Fence was ultimately a good thing, though it may be difficult to acknowledge that now. “Green Fence has led to widespread confusion and indecisiveness in the plastic scrap trade,” he said. “The developed world has mountains of lower-quality plastic scrap, and this situation creates storage and logistics problems. There is a substantial drop in the shipment of plastics scrap from Europe to China.”
Borad said that in the first half of the year, shipments of plastic scrap from Europe to China declined by more than 16 percent compared with the same time last year while European shipments to Hong Kong declined 26 percent.
The tightened quality specifications created by Operation Green Fence have led many shippers to redirect tonnage to other sources. However, Borad added, overall plastic scrap exports from Europe to non-EU countries declined by more than 14 percent during the first half of 2013.
Despite these challenges, Borad said Operation Green Fence would be a net positive for the plastics recycling industry as well as for China.
Greg Cardot of France-based Veolia and a board member of BIR’s Plastics Division touched on plastics markets in France. While prices for many grades firmed in the first half of the year, more recently they slid backward.
Cardot said French bottlers reported a sales increase of 30 percent in July; consequently, the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle collection rate was good in September and October. Despite this, he said PET was the only virgin resin to decline in pricing by 60 euros per ton since January.
Peter Daalder of Daly Plastics, a Dutch recycling firm, said, “The market (in the Netherlands) is currently stable and mainly unchanged over the last three months. Sales vary from time to time, but in general the market is good.
“Looking at today’s situation, we expect that the price for new material will be reasonably steady and there should be hardly any increase in price,” Daalder added.
Larry Schipper of International Alloys, a New Jersey-based recycling firm, said, “The U.S. domestic market has continued to be fairly consistent over the last 12 months. Only recently has there been some hesitancy from consumers to purchase at the same rate as they have the rest of the year, but it appears mostly to be due to years’ end inventory balances.”
He added that some consumers have dropped their buying prices since the summer while others have adjusted their buying prices upward to ensure adequate supply.
He said low-grade plastics remained difficult to sell, unlike high grades.
The 2013 BIR World Recycling Convention Autumn Round-Table Sessions was held in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 28-29.