Recycling prices and market commentary: 27 October 2023

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Mixed plastics
Mixed plastics

The plastic and paper markets received a shock this week as falling prices hit businesses hard.

For the former, a drop in the value of the PRN/PERN has a dramatic and instant impact with material prices for packaging plastics tumbling down.

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When it comes to paper and cardboard, it was OCC that dropped this week as market sentiment seemed to change everywhere.

At a time when markets are normally expected to be buoyant in the run-up to Christmas, 2023 is proving to be a very worrying time for many recycling businesses.

Indeed, there are already reports of facilities stopping night shifts, bringing forward maintenance or instigating redundancy programmes as a result of this rapid fall in value of materials.

Some are hoping that the market will correct itself in the coming weeks, but others are more pessimistic.

There was no change in the trading value of the pound against the dollar at $1.21 and was also unchanged at €1.14.

Recycled plastics

The publication of the Q3 data last week was a hammer blow to those trading plastic packaging for recycling.

With the plastic data appearing to show a record quarter, there was all sorts of speculation as to why this occurred when markets for recyclable plastics are either challenging at best or virtually dead at worst.

The PRN/PERN value virtually halved in the first few days of this week, surprising a market that had been expecting stability. Some found themselves with stocks of material on their yards and a PRN/PERN that had halved in value in an already difficult market. For those who had pre-sold or were relying on the PRN/PERN to provide much needed cash, the drop was devastating.

For a material like PET bottles, the best material is still just about attracting a price, but not much of one if you can move it. Lesser quality material is now in free of charge or even gate fee territory.

HDPE milk bottles, LDPE film and PP packaging all dropped in value. One slight positive element is that some buyers were prepared to help out a bit so many buying prices did not reflect the full price of the PRN/PERN fall. But that was only in situations where a buyer could be found.

For many, the situation appears desperate and they are crossing their fingers and hoping that the market will somehow improve in November, and perhaps get better when we enter the transition period in December for the 2024 compliance year.

Recycled paper

Sentiment in the OCC market was very poor this week, which came as a surprise as this was the trading week when many were buying for the whole of November.

Those who had been leading the market at levels above £100 or even £110 over recent weeks pulled back sharply, and where material was being traded it was more in the £80 to £90 region.

Indeed, orders were hard to come by showing the weakness of the market in what is traditionally a good month.

Mixed didn’t respond to the same degree and was only down by £2 or so this week. Other grades also remained stable.

The question though for the market is what will the recovered fibre market look like for the rest of the year and will pessimism reign, or will green shoots emerge over the coming weeks to foster some optimism.

Recycled metals

Non-ferrous grades were unchanged this week, but ferrous grades including steel cans lost £5 per tonne.

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