New Analysis Outlines Progress, Challenges, Next Steps for UK Recovered Plastics Market

The latest data and in-depth information about UK plastics recycling and reprocessing has been released in an updated Plastics Market Situation Report from resource efficiency experts WRAP.

The report includes detailed analysis of recovered plastic flows, prices and the sustainability of end markets, including the risks and opportunities. It reviews trends past and present, and updates on data reported by the organization since the previous Plastic Market Situation Report was published in 2011.

The three key themes covered in the report:

  • Progresssignificant improvements have been made by local authorities, the recycling industry and the wider supply chain towards achieving a circular economy for plastics. This includes a sharp increase in recycling of plastic packaging (up more than 50 percent since 2009*), the introduction of mixed plastic collections by the majority of local authorities (up to an estimated 67 percent in 2014-15) and lightweighting by brands and retailers.
  • End markets — the report gives a detailed assessment of the different plastics end markets in the UK and aboard, by polymer and by end user. Despite concern from brands, manufacturers, local authorities and reprocessors, the report shows there is a wide range of end market sectors and applications potentially available for UK collected plastics. One example is Sicut Enterprises Ltd, which manufactures infrastructure products, including railway sleepers, from recycled waste plastics**.
  • Plastic recyclers — plastic recyclers are particularly vulnerable to changes in market conditions due to their position in the middle of the supply chain; often feeling the squeeze from both sides, as well as higher costs and lower output prices. The decline in the price of oil has often been raised as a contributing factor behind difficulties in the UK plastics recycling sector. This report shows that this is not the whole story, with plastic prices often showing a weak relationship to oil.

“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,” said WRAP director Marcus Gover. “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. 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.”

"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 UK together with some of the future challenges and opportunities that exist,” said Barry Turner, Director of Plastics and Flexible Packaging Group at the British Plastics Federation. “This will prove to be an important and enduring reference document.”

The Plastics Market Situation Report joins a series of reports produced by WRAP that examine current economic conditions and trends in the markets for recovered materials***.

* when the Plastics Market Situation Report reported on 2009 data

** Sicut has the exclusive rights to proven technology that enables the manufacture of infrastructure products from recycled waste plastics. Recent approvals for its Ecotrax® recycled plastic railway sleeper, the impending European ban on creosote and growing demand for alternatives to timber sleepers has led Sicut to establish a UK manufacturing base. Sicut anticipates that it will utilise over 25,000 tonnes of recycled plastic waste per annum by 2018/19 and that this will make a significant contribution to UK targets on sustainability, waste and landfill, as well as reducing the demand for imported hardwood. Unlike most of the output from the recycled plastic industry, Sicut’s products are not linked to oil price or virgin polymers. “This will not only deliver our customers’ expectations but also a much needed boost to the plastic recycling industry. The UK manufacture of Ecotrax® will bring inward investment, new advanced manufacturing, green jobs and local regeneration,” said William Mainwaring, CEO, Sicut Enterprises Ltd.

***other market situation reports cover metal, glass, paper, plastic, wood, organics and Chinese markets for recovered paper and textiles. View those at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/marketreports

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