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Report for the USA

The market for all recyclables has seen a gradual decline and lacklustre demand. In the USA, and particularly California, there has not been the usual seasonal uptick in consumption that stimulates the market. The wet winter delayed the growth of seasonal produce which, in turn, has led to weak demand for thermoforms. On the East Coast, bale prices have fallen as fears of recession and the impact on the housing sector have seen the fibre market decline.

PET bale prices have dropped nine cents in the past two months from US$ 0.205 to US$ 0.115 per lb. North American demand remains uncharacteristically weak across the beverage, thermoform and fibre markets as prices decline. Cheap imports of virgin PET, rPET flake and pellet continue to make it difficult for reclaimers to compete. In Mexico, cheap Asian imports have disrupted the market, weighing on domestic production without much relief in sight.

The PET industry is hoping warmer weather will encourage higher consumption; however, domestic producers are reducing operating hours and work to compete with Asian export prices that are trending lower. Very recently, West Coast volume demand has seen a slight uptick from both domestic and export buyers as the low bale prices have encouraged stockpiling.

Like PET, natural HDPE has seen prices plummet in recent weeks from US$ 0.72 per lb at the start of June to US$ 0.40 by mid-month and then US$ 0.25 by the month’s end. The influx of cheap imported finished goods has made it difficult for domestic producers to compete. One major US buyer pulled out of the market in June owing to the uncertainty and has only just returned to purchasing on a spot basis. Colour HDPE has also seen swings: in early May, the price went up from US$ 0.15 to US$ 0.17 per lb but dropped in June to US$ 0.08; the export market is slightly higher at US$ 0.10.

There is still market uncertainty surrounding LDPE. However, it has seen a more measured drop in prices, with more consistent purchasing.

For polypropylene, the last four months have seen export and domestic markets remain flat, with a slight dip in bale prices. The main reason for sluggish sales is that, in 2022, the PP virgin resin price dropped significantly, and it has only recently seen an increase. This has made it difficult for recycled PP producers to compete, and they are barely covering their processing costs.

Grade A densified polystyrene has maintained a consistent, steady market with little disruption. Both the export and domestic markets are seeing prices around US$ 0.18 per lb, having avoided the wild swings of other recycled resins.

In conclusion, post-consumer resin markets are struggling with three major issues: cheap imports, high summer volumes and uncertain markets. These are causing prices to drop, with little relief in sight. It is anticipated that markets may see some uptick at the start of 2024 and gain positive momentum halfway through that year.