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United States

Recycled plastic markets are strong in the USA, particularly for those resins that are collected and have higher volumes.

Post-consumer PET bale prices in the USA have more than tripled from the start of the year and are likely to continue to trend upwards, especially in California. There are several factors behind this increase, the main being strong demand both domestically and outside the USA, especially from Mexico. The issues around collection and high transportation costs, coupled with the increase in fuel costs, have added to the price inflation. In California, the anticipated mandated content law that comes into effect in 2022 has put the spotlight on supply and the state’s reclaimers have all increased capacity.

Owing to shortages of virgin PET, rPET flake prices have reached the same level; it is likely that resin prices will continue to rise as production is low. Prices for rPET pellets remain strong - from low to mid US$ 0.90 per lb on the US West Coast to US$ 1.06 on the East Coast.

Natural HDPE prices have softened since their mid-year highs, with post-consumer bales falling from an average of US$ 1.05 per lb to US$ 0.98, the first drop in six months. Likewise, colour HDPE has dipped from US$ 0.52 per lb to US$ 0.48, but demand remains strong and steady. The same is true of clear LDPE: it has seen a slight lowering in value owing to high summer volumes and remains flat at around US$ 0.23 per lb. Lower-grade LDPE is struggling to find markets, with only the intermittent interest of export buyers.

Despite its growth as a commodity, the domestic PP market has been impacted by the temporary closure of one of the biggest buyers in the USA owing to COVID outbreaks and labour shortages affecting production. Mexico remains a competitive market and demand in North America is stable, with prices averaging US$ 0.23 per lb.

Ridge PS has seen its market shrink as cities around the country impose a ban on sales. As its unpopularity grows, packaging manufacturers are being encouraged to switch to PET as an alternative. Meanwhile, EPS has value and is experiencing stable export and domestic markets.

The wider recycling industry is adjusting to the new reality resulting from China’s National Sword initiative. In fact, California has just passed legislation (AB 881) that discourages the exporting of mixed plastics to ensure that only exports of truly recycled plastics count towards the state’s waste reduction and recycling diversion rates.

US markets remain strong and healthy, with post-consumer resin a sought-after commodity. At the same time, however, labour and trucking shortages are continuing to plague the industry and to impact on inventories and delivery times.