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2021 was marked by higher raw material prices owing to changed buying habits and supply chain issues. The pandemic made us spend more time at home and, consequently, consume more plastic, thereby increasing demand at a time of resin shortages. These two factors led to an historic rise in recycled plastic prices.

Experts are predicting a continuation of these high price levels for the first half of 2022. A slight drop in raw material prices can be expected on the one hand whereas, on the other, we will continue to face the elevated freight costs caused by reduced vessel capacity limiting the ability to return containers to Asia and price increases for 40-foot containers.

The question is whether the recycled plastic price rise will last. Some experts say that the imbalance between supply and demand will keep prices high. Europe wants to secure its raw materials supply and ensure competitiveness through circular materials; also, producers are increasingly marketing “circular” raw materials produced from the chemical recycling of plastics waste, or those based on renewable resources. Food packaging, medical equipment, electrical appliances and suitcases can now be produced using recycled plastic.

However, other experts believe that there is still a lot to do with regard to plastics recycling, and that inability to cope with demand could lead to replacement by virgin plastic resins or by other materials suitable for the same applications. Plastic’s poor image among the general public is not helping.

Plastics recycling cannot be sustained by rules and regulations alone. That’s why the emergence on to the market of any new recycling technology is a big opportunity for us all.