In this new monthly feature, Nevis Resources sales and marketing director Martin Robb shares his thoughts on the recycled plastic market
November was a stagnant market with low volumes of plastic tonnage traded. This was due to the very low PRN prices that were seen as the National Packaging Waste Database monthly and quarterly figures showed that we were effectively compliant for 2020.
We are now seeing an increase in trading for the December transitional period and the market is starting to wake up again. From a PRN price of about £4 for November, we are now seeing around £75 for December at the time of writing.
This is a good starting point as it allows recyclable plastics to start moving again, but is not high enough to encourage those who want to move the dross that flooded the market during 2020. Hopefully it won’t be high enough to bring back those who were up to no good by taking advantage of the high PRN prices we had seen up to the middle of the year.
At this sort of level, low- to mid-value grades will move again from next week, when previously they would have been gate fee material or going to energy from waste facilities.
We are also seeing more demand for PP grades and better quality LDPE film due to a lack of commercial supply which had been impacted by Covid. HDPE grades have taken a bit of a knock for various reasons but supply has remained steady through domestic sources during recent months.
With the PRN at this level, we should also see Turkey come back into the market as this price supports shipping there. Turkey has been starved of material as it wasn’t worth sending it there at low prices, but Turkish facilities are really keen to buy again.
Although new reduced quota is coming in for Turkey from the beginning of 2021, I don’t expect it will affect us too much as our existing customers have demand they need to fill. Where the quota will make a difference is for any new facilities being set up that don’t have the capacity history to back them up.
German, French and Dutch buyers have been able to have their pick of material over recent weeks, but we will have to see how they respond to more demand from elsewhere.
We are also getting closer to when the new measures of the Basel Convention kick in from the start of 2021. This could affect exports due to tighter restrictions on the grades that can be exported.
At the same time, we are getting closer to the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year and we still don’t have absolute clarity on what is required.
Containers into the EU should still be fairly straightforward as inspections of them will take place here.
Trailers into Europe are much more uncertain as we are receiving conflicting answers on what will be required when sending them into the EU. I’m hoping for a grace period, but it could become very complicated.
As we also operate in Northern Ireland, there is still a bit of uncertainty about what we will need to do to ship to England or Scotland, but my expectation is that recyclable material will be straighforward. Unlike food, we shouldn’t need to worry about rules of origin.
The underlying market has been weak due to low oil and virgin plastic prices. Despite this, demand for recycled content continues to grow, and with markets having been starved of UK material due to low PRN prices, I’m hoping for a strong start to 2021.