Challenges for plastics recycling from low oil prices won’t last forever, warns Chris Dow


Closed Loop Recycling chief executive Chris Dow has said that low oil prices that are making recycling plastics “challenging” won’t last forever.

However, he warned that 2015 looks set to be remain difficult with the price of virgin plastics falling below that of recycled material due to the very low current oil price.


He said: “Currently, low-priced fossil fuels are pushing down the price of virgin plastic leaving recycled material languishing behind.

“Unfortunately, in these times of austerity, economics threatens to take over from the wellbeing of our environment and the current situation is truly testing the moral compass of Britain’s big brands. Do they do the right thing and plump for maximising the country’s existing resources and with it grow Britain’s circular economy? Or do they choose their materials based on price along – with virgin plastic winning in the cost stakes?

Secondary Commodity Markets 2015 – the conference for buyers and sellers of recyclable materials takes place on 3 March 2015 in London. Find out more here

“Currently, mentioning carbon footprint puts less than a 10th of a penny on a bottle of drink, but that won’t always be the case. Because our world is changing and the long-term view in terms of oil and gas supply doesn’t look great. The sun might be shining today, but the storm is coming and we do all need to get on the ark.

“Thankfully, there are visionaries out there who understand that while oil prices are low now, in the not too distant future – five years, one year even – prices will rise again and it is worth the gamble on oil prices now to reap the rewards later. The UK dairy industry is one such visionary body. Its Dairy Roadmap is driving the demand for recycled material and companies in this sector recognise this and are prepared to stay the course now in order to benefit in the long term.”

He also called for measures to be put in place that incentivise the use of current resource.

Looking ahead to 2015, he also put together a wish list of three things he hopes to see happen next year.

These are:

1. Stop CSR box-ticking by providing real economic incentives for packaging producers and brand owners to use recycled content instead of virgin material – PRN reform is one answer

2. Increase funding to the Environment Agency to ensure greater enforcement of existing regulations that are designed to stamp out illegal waste exports

3. Encourage consumers to recycle and local authorities to collect more plastic bottles in order to provide enough feedstock for the UK’s circular economy