WRAP releases analysis of UK recovered plastics markets

U.K.-based WRAP has published an updated “Plastics Market Situation Report,” which includes detailed analysis of recovered plastic flows, prices and the sustainability of end markets. WRAP’s previous “Plastic Market Situation Report” was published in 2011.

According to the report, which is available at www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Plastics_Market_Situation_Report.pdf, significant improvements have been made by local authorities, the recycling industry and the wider supply chain toward achieving a circular economy for plastics. This includes a sharp increase in plastic packaging recycling, which grew more than 50% since 2009; the introduction of mixed plastic collections by the majority of local authorities, which increased an estimated 67% in 2014/15; and lightweighting by brands and retailers, WRAP says.

The report provides an assessment of plastics end markets in the U.K. and abroad by polymer and by end user. Despite concern from brands, manufacturers, local authorities and reprocessors, the report shows a wide range of end market sectors and applications potentially are available for plastics that are collected in the U.K.

Plastic recyclers are vulnerable to changing market conditions in light of their position in the middle of the supply chain, WRAP says, often feeling the squeeze from both sides, as well as higher costs and lower output prices. The decline in the price of oil often has been raised as a contributing factor behind difficulties in the U.K. plastics recycling sector; but, this report shows plastic prices often show a weak relationship to oil.

Marcus Gover, WRAP director, says, “Much has been achieved since we published the second ‘Plastics Market Situation Report 2011,’ but there is still more to be done with challenging targets looming and testing market conditions.

“This report provides much needed clarity to some of the challenges the sector has faced recently as well as confidence on where to invest next,” he continues. “Plastic recyclers don’t have to wait for oil prices to rise again. There are markets out there that will work that aren’t linked to oil prices. It’s about keeping costs low, not overreaching and identifying an end product to sell the reprocessed materials into.”

Barry Turner, director of plastics and flexible packaging group at the British Plastics Federation, says, “Collecting information down to the granular and detailed level as presented in this report is always challenging, but the estimates and actual data given nevertheless present an excellent summary of the market and progress made in extending plastic collection and recycling in the U.K. together with some of the future challenges and opportunities that exist. This will prove to be an important and enduring reference document.”