18 May 2020 by Joshua Doherty

Plastic recycling ‘could cease to be profitable’

Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) has claimed that plastics recycling as an industry will “cease to be profitable” unless further government support is offered.

The warning comes in the face of what the Brussels-based organisation describes as “record low” prices of virgin material and decreased global activity.

The organisation represents dozens of plastic recyclers in Europe, including some in the UK

PRE represents a string of recyclers across the continent and in the UK, including Attero, Berry bpi , DS Smith, and Roydon.

The group remarks that the European plastics recycling industry is closing productiondue to the current market developments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This includes a lack of the demand due to the closure of converting plants and the record low prices of virgin plastics as well as the decreased activity globally. 

Ton Emans,  president of the organisation, said: “If the situation persists and no actions are taken to remedy the sector, plastics recycling will cease to be profitable, hampering the attainment of the EU recycling targets and putting in jeopardy the transition towards circular plastics.  

“In such a case, recyclable plastic waste will have no alternatives but to be sent to landfill or incineration.” 

Socio-economic 

The organisation cautions that any damage to the recycling market would “have far reaching socio-economic impacts due to the extensive employment in the waste management value chain”.

“If the situation is to persist and no actions are taken to remedy the sector, plastics recycling will cease to be profitable”

Tom Emans, president of Plastic Recyclers Europe

PRE has now called on the EU and the Member States to include recycling as one of the sectors supported by their recovery plans and to continue implementing the measures under the Circular Economy umbrella. 

“Safeguarding the positive developments within this market is essential to reduce Europe’s use of virgin plastics and, therefore, for the survival of the secondary raw materials market as well as further investments in the sector,” the organisation added.

BPF 

The release from Plastics Recyclers Europe came on the same day (15 May) as the British Plastics Federation (BPF) urged the UK government to increase the level of financial support for companies in the plastics supply chain involved in export. 

Speaking “on behalf of companies ranging from material suppliers to manufacturers of machinery and ancillary equipment”, director general of the BPF, Philip Law, said the plastics sector as a whole is facing challenges.  

With businesses “facing the dual challenges posed by Brexit as well as an economy deeply impacted by the coronavirus for the foreseeable future”, Mr Law said the government needs to look at innovative ways of supporting SME exporters, such as exploring virtual exhibitions and helping companies fund foreign language versions of their websites. 

UK

Plastic recyclers in the UK have said that while there are fears that a fall in the oil price could impact demand for recycled content, this will take a while to reach them, with some saying the real impact  “won’t be felt until June or July”.

There have been concerns expressed however over the impact of the coronavirus pandemics, with some reporting that material recycling facilities (MRFs) are reducing operations which means plastic quality and availability is being impacted.

“As always, it’s the lower grades which are impacted”, said one recycler.

Those in the bottle recycling sector have reported that demand for material is still strong, and the PRN remains around the £250 mark which offers some support to the sector.

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