There was ‘little good news’ for plastics recyclers in 2020 and the market looks set to remain challenging going into next year, some in the industry have warned.
While prices for scrap material are expected to slightly harden this month, on the back of higher transitional PRN prices, recyclers have pointed to incoming changes to the Basel Convention which threaten to cause disruption to waste plastic exports from January 2021.
Plastic recyclers have reported a difficult year, but hope legislation from 2022 onwards could help
This follows a year in which the sector has struggled with low virgin plastic prices, plummeting PRN price support, falling demand from export destinations and reduced demand for finished products driven by the pandemic.
The bright spots are the upcoming plastics tax which is set for 2022, and that the government is supporting a number of domestic plastics recycling projects.
In the short-term at least, however, there is considerable concern in the plastics recycling marketplace. “The market is stable but it is still terrible and there is no good news for next year,” one recycler told letsrecycle.com. “The changes will drive prices to the negative.”
“There could be a glut of material after Christmas followed by a shortage of outlets due to difficulty in exporting it in the short term,” another predicted, “meaning that UK reprocessors may find themselves swamped with material.”
The Basel Convention is the international treaty governing waste shipments between nations. Changes (see here) have been introduced which will see new requirements around plastic waste coming into force on January 1. This will see some plastic waste types that are currently exported under ‘green list’ procedures have to be notified, involving more time and complexity.
Meanwhile, under Brexit, there will also be new arrangements for the movement of waste between the UK and the EU. The UK is likely to be treated as any other OECD country or other country party to Basel convention that intends to export waste to an EU country.
One recycler said: “The Basel Convention and Brexit changes will make export more difficult and some lower grade material could consequently end up in incineration. It may improve quality and drive investment in UK reprocessing, but I think in the short term it will have a negative impact.”