Packaging News : Plastic is the ‘new’ glass, say PRN experts


The news follows the publication of the UK’s Q1 2011 packaging recovery and recycling figures.




The figures – published on the Environment Agency’s National Packaging Waste Database – show that 140,218 tonnes of plastic packaging waste was recycled between January and March 2011. This is markedly lower than the 159,970 tonnes of plastic packaging recycled during the same period in 2010 and 157,269 tonnes in 2009.




However, the supply of glass PRNs appears to have picked up at the beginning of this year following a fall in supply at the end of 2010.




‘Plastic is the new glass’




Environment Exchange senior market operator Tom Rickerby told Packaging News: “Plastic is the new glass. It looks like plastic is a tight market at the moment, as the latest figures suggest. Plastic PRNs may be undervalued.




“But we have seen a slight increase in price, up from £3.25 per tonne to £3.50 per tonne, as the results have been published.”




Scrap-ex director of markets Gareth Goodall added that the UK needs to be hitting the 150,000 tonne plastic recycling mark for each quarter if the UK is to meet its targets.




He added: “On the face of it the market looks very tight and something is going to have to change to ensure that we are compliant this year. Chinese buying interest on plastics has been down over the last couple of months.




“Less Far East plastic export demand has resulted in less packaging export recovery notes. I think some Chinese buyers have been uneasy about buying materials at high levels we have seen this year and have been waiting for markets to cool.




“We have also seen a 20% drop in the amount of reprocessors becoming accredited to issue PRNs.”




Improvement in glass




However, recent figures show that 449,645 tonnes of glass packaging was recycled in Q1 of 2011 compared to the previous year’s figure of 388,497 tonnes.




Rickerby said that the improved performance in glass was probably down to a delay in getting some material reprocessed at the back end of 2010 due to issues such as adverse weather conditions.




“Glass has had a strong first quarter. This has been the strongest quarter one figure to date. The shortfall end of 2010 may have worked into 2011 and may well have taken the pressure of glass this year. If history is to repeat itself and glass grows over the course of the year it’s looking very comfortable for glass.”




The immediate reaction to the glass figures was a drop in price for glass PRNs from £11 to £10 per tonne. Rickerby said the Environment Exchange will analyse the glass prices to see if the drop continues.




Reprocessor and exporter data




















































































































































Material Quarter 1 2010 (t) Quarter 1 2011 (t)
Paper 763,554 764,214
Glass 388,497 449,645
Aluminium 13,927 17,930
Steel 116,627 87,863
Plastics 159,970 140,090
Wood 197,464 176,822
Total recycling 1,640,084 1,636,564
Total recycling and recovery 1,798,190 1,806,366




Source: National Packaging Waste Database