Shipping problems go well beyond recycling industry

Shipping problems go well beyond recycling industry

Snarls in container shipping have slowed global commerce on all fronts.

January 25, 2021

If the idea that “misery loves company” is any solace, recyclers can take comfort that the container availability, freight costs and shipping date delays plaguing them are being shared across seemingly all business sectors.

 A Jan. 25 online article by the Washington Post refers to “disrupted global supply chains” with symptoms that include “fresh shipping headaches” that are delaying United States exports, “crimping domestic manufacturing and threatening higher prices for American consumers.”

“The cost of shipping a container of goods has risen by 80 percent since early November and has nearly tripled over the past year, according to the Freightos Baltic Index,” writes David J. Lynch, the article’s author.

In a mid-January online event hosted by the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), discussion panelists referred to a scarcity of containers, difficulty securing shipping space and a recent demand by some shipping companies that recyclers try to load or unload their container shipments within seven days instead of a more common 14-day window.

Murat Bayram, who works near the port of Hamburg, Germany, for United Kingdom-based EMR Ltd., says he knows of exporters there who “had material at the port in November, but it didn’t leave the port until January.” In addition to shipping companies saying they are “missing up to 12 percent of their containers,” Bayram said absent port workers and efforts to keep workers farther apart means “only half of the containers are able to be moved” on a given day compared with normal times.

Sources in the North American paper recycling industry told Recycling Today Managing Editor Megan Smalley late last year that shipping containers had been hard to come by, and that It was difficult to secure space on sailings.

“Space is tight,” said Steve Frank, president and CEO of Pioneer Recycling Services, which has material recovery facilities in Tacoma, Washington, and Clackamas, Oregon. “Even though you have a booking, at the last minute it can get rolled. It is very challenging in the [U.S.] Northwest. I’m hearing about this all over in our area.”

Sources based on the U.S. East Coast told Smalley they were experiencing the same challenges securing containers.

Frank posited that the global reworking of shipping lanes to Southeast Asia since China stopped importing recovered paper at the start of 2021 was playing a role. “Southeast Asian economies are rebounding fast,” Frank remarked. “They’re trying to get containers, and maybe in some cases, they are happy to take them back empty.”

The Washington Post report indicates retailers such as The Gap and consumer goods producers including the makers of WD-40 are running into “sticker shock” and delays. Lynch cites Germany-based Ocean Insights GmbH as a source, indicating that “more than one-third of the containers transiting the world’s 20 largest ports [in December] failed to ship when scheduled.”

Regarding sticker shock, a Jan. 24 article posted to says spot freight rates in December “were 264 percent higher for the Asia-to-North Europe route compared with a year ago” and that “for the route from Asia to the West Coast of the U.S., rates are up 145 percent year over year.” The news organization cites Germany-based DHL Resilience360 for those figures.