Recycling prices and market commentary: 19 October 2018


The recycling markets are gripped by uncertainty as Asian markets in many materials appear to have shut down for the rest of the year.

Some are more than happy to take half term off and not think about recycling for a week, wondering where they will send material when they get back.


The publication of the Q3 data from the National Packaging Waste Database on Sunday is being eagerly awaited as this could have a big impact on both the PRN/PERN and physical markets for the rest of the year.

With PRN prices high across the board, this could lead to them going even higher or dropping lower. Of course, they could also stay the same. But the fact no-one is quite sure, is adding to the general sense of uncertainty.

Indeed, the publication of an article in the Guardian about PRN fraud in plastics is not only interestingly, and probably coincidentally, timed with the data release, but is also reflecting what has been very strong gossip for much of the year. Indeed, those who have compared the plastic export data from HMRC (the latest data is here) and NPWD have been scratching their heads for a while.

Those few who are still exporting benefited from a pound trading at $1.30 this week compared to $1.32 a week ago. Although the euro/pound remained at €1.13.

Recycled plastics

Overall, prices for most grades remain high, although unchanged this week.

The plastics market in particular is awaiting the NWPD data as mentioned above as this could potentially have a dramatic impact on both the PRN/PERN price and the physical market for packaging grades.

As a result, both have been rather static for the last couple of weeks.

The challenge remains finding end markets for certain grades. Bottle grades are doing well at present, supported by the PRN price, and are being snapped up by reprocessors. Other grades such as film are struggling, especially as markets are closing.

Indeed, this week Malaysia has said it will eventually ban non-recyclable plastics without giving specifics, but it has also extended its temporary ban on importing recycled plastics until further notice.

It has also been widely reported that Thailand is to ban plastic imports by 2021, but most in the market recognise that it is so difficult to export to Thailand at present, that the market is effectively closed anyway.

Recycled paper

Despite 2 million tonnes of extra quota being released yesterday, the big three buyers have eased out of the China specification market this week. Most of the quota was going to smaller mill groups, so other minor exporters to independent mills have benefited.

While £165 per tonne for Chinese specification was available to some this week, most was much lower. Indeed, there were not a lot of offers around from the big three.

With an effective deadline of next Friday to get material on the water to ensure arrival before the start of the 2019 quota period, they have been cautious and got their work done early.

Now that China is effectively out of the market, we are seeing a return to a narrower spread. At the top end of the non-China market, £90 was achievable to Indonesia and Vietnam, and some UK buyers but this could be as low as £80 per tonne. Elsewhere was a bit lower, with India at the bottom at around £70 to £75 per tonne. This price range is now effectively the market until the Chinese return, most probably at the start of 2019, unless they feel confident enough about quota to start purchasing again in late-November and December.

Mixed has also eased a little bit on falling demand, losing about £5 per tonne. This is partly as a result of the OCC price falling back too, as more OCC (including Chinese quality) is now available to wider buyers.

Don’t forget though that prior to the new Chinese specification being introduced, the average price of OCC over the previous five years had been around £85 per tonne, and mixed paper had averaged £21 less. We are now more or less heading back to a more normal market for a little while.

Recycled metals

There was a small downward adjustment of £25 per tonne for copper and aluminium grades, with everything else the same as last week.

Recycled 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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