Export report: plastics (Dec 17)


Please note this report just focuses on the waste polymers of ethylene commodity code (391510), as exports of other plastics are relatively small in volume

Exports of the waste polymers of ethylene commodity code declined in December 2017 as alternative destinations to China took less material than in the previous month.


Malaysia took 8,154 tonnes in December, down from the record 11,929 tonnes in November. However, this meant that Malaysia has now taken more than 8,000 tonnes per month for five months, effectively since the China ban was announced.

It does seem to suggest a trend of Malaysia purchasing more material, as only once before since we began collecting the data in 2012 has it imported more than 8,000 tonnes. This was in May 2016 when it took 11,061 tonnes.

December’s total also represents a more than doubling of the 3,999 tonnes it bought in December 2016. Malaysia is now the key player in the import of this material, and there will be a lot of people crossing their fingers that it continues to purchase its current levels of material.

While not anywhere near replacing the lost volumes previously sent to China, it does represent a glimmer of hope for the plastic export sector.

PE key destinations (391510)

wdt_ID Date China Malaysia Vietnam EU total
1 01/12/2017 1,593,325 8,154,599 5,185,643 2,356,480
2 01/11/2017 1,340,655 11,929,056 8,441,914 5,064,111
3 01/10/2017 3,937,218 8,448,893 9,224,031 6,378,656
4 01/09/2017 6,735,842 8,836,402 6,965,057 6,021,468
5 01/08/2017 12,986,863 8,042,469 4,297,452 6,436,902
6 01/07/2017 14,879,464 6,984,245 2,828,813 1,917,806
7 01/06/2017 13,836,510 5,912,876 3,276,369 6,344,826
8 01/05/2017 10,244,233 6,634,566 2,371,000 5,126,138
9 01/04/2017 16,314,413 5,812,466 1,722,387 3,563,463
10 01/03/2017 20,367,409 2,720,115 1,448,964 4,328,398

Exports to Vietnam also fell in December to 5,185 tonnes from 8,441 tonnes in November. While exports to Vietnam have grown since August 2017 since the Chinese ban, unlike Malaysia its purchasing habits appear more inconsistent. For example, it bought 9,224 tonnes of UK material in October, which was more than imported by the apparently more consistent Malaysia.

Europe appears to have filled up in December with exports to there from the UK falling to 2,356 tonnes compared to 5,064 tonnes in November (although of course, Christmas may have had some impact on export tonnages to Europe in this period).

But after taking more than 6,000 tonnes each month from August to October, it does appear that European appetite for UK material has eased. In only one month previously (since 2012 when we started collecting the data) had Europe taken more than 6,000 tonnes, and this was in June 2017. Again, European buyers appeared to take advantage of the announcement of the ban on Chinese imports of plastics by buying more material, but are now not as interested.

What may be of particular concern is that Poland, which had taken more than 1,700 tonnes in every month last year (with the exception of July), took just 531 tonnes in December, down from 2,277 tonnes in November. This could indicate it is full up, but equally the country bounced back after almost nothing went there in July 2017.

As a result, Netherlands was the top destination in Europe in December with a rather low 595 tonnes, down from 1,216 tonnes in November.

Exports to China actually increased in December to 1,593 tonnes, from 1,340 tonnes in November.

But when compared to the 13,127 tonnes in December 2016 and 16,050 tonnes in December 2015, it shows the extent of what has been lost by the Chinese ban on the import of most plastics.

While it can be assumed that the material still going to China is post-manufacturing plastic that is still permitted, it should become clearer next month when January’s data is published, the extent of the post-manufacturing material that is still being sent to China. Of course, a longer period will be required to start seeing any trends.

PE historic data – all destinations

UK PE exports 2017

UK PE exports 2016

UK PE exports 2015

UK PE exports 2014

UK PE exports 2013

UK PE exports 2012




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