Recycling prices and market commentary: 18 December 2020

Bales of OCC cardboard for recycling
Bales of OCC cardboard for recycling

Please note, this is the final report of 2020. The next one will be on 8 January 2021. Articles will continue to appear on this site until 22 December 2020 and then resume on 7 January 2021.

It was a quiet week overall on the recycling market as there is a lot of uncertainty around and people decided to wind things down early ahead of Christmas.


With a deal still not agreed on Brexit at the time of writing, continued disruption at ports, haulage generally hard to get hold of, plus Basel pre-notification on certain plastic grades happening from 1 January, this all combined to halt usual trading.

There isn’t too much expectation of this to change over the Christmas period, and exporter will decide how quickly they wish to dip their toes back into the water afterwards. Some smaller operators are believed to be thinking they’ll wait to see how larger exporters get on before committing.

The market also wants to see if the usual Christmas surge in material occurs this year with shopping habits changed due to Covid, plus many restaurants and pubs remaining closed through the Festive Period.

Against the dollar, the pound was stronger at $1.35 this week from $1.32 a week ago, which also added additional cost for those who did export. The pound was also up against the euro at €1.11 from €1.10 last week.

Recycled plastics

There really wasn’t much going on this week and the market is likely to remain quiet for a few weeks yet.

For exporters into Europe, they don’t want to send material there at the moment as there is a risk it gets caught up in Brexit-related issues until some sort of deal is negotiated or not.

Those who are exporting will also face new Basel pre-notification rules from 1 January on certain grades, so those markets are also switched off for the time being.

UK buyers are focusing on the material they have already bought or relying on contractual material.

For the 2020 compliance year, the PRN/PERN dropped by about £10 per tonne and this was also reflected in the prices of packaging grades. For 2021, the transitional price is around £75 and this may help some trades early in the year.

Plastic recyclers are still finding it hard to get accreditation for next year, but those that are should find it a more honest market in 2021. A number of companies have been struck off the list by the agencies, while one bonus of Brexit will be the effective pre-notification paperwork it may necessitate that will also provide a paper trail for fraudsters. Having said that, it will mean more paperwork and hassle, but some are welcoming what should be a more transparent market.

Forecast prices


Recycled paper

No real change in the paper market this week, although OCC softened a little due to a lack of trade.

Like other recyclate markets, there is too much uncertainty around at the moment and many had traded for December at the end of November anyway.

Moving material remains a challenge and there are also fears of sending material into Europe if it gets stuck at port or in lorry parks.

There is some hope though that the market will reawaken in mid-January once some of the creases are smoothed out. The market is also waiting to hear when Malaysian pre-shipment inspections will begin.

For 2021, the PRN/PERN is trading at around £7 per tonne compared to 50p for 2020 tonnage.

Forecast prices


Recycled metals

Only ferrous grades saw a price rise this week, with them increasing by £15 per tonne. Cans rose by the same amount.

For metal packaging grades, the 2021 PRN/PERN is the same as the 2020 one at around £3.50. Aluminium however is trading at around £4 for 2020, but is at £35 for 2021.

Recycling prices

For recycled paper prices, click here

For recycled plastic prices, click here

For recycled metal prices, click here

For recycled glass prices, click here

For PRN/PERN prices, click here

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