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Asia and Eastern Europe

A critical insight to have emerged is the potential mismatch between increasing demand for rPET and supply of its primary feedstock, namely PET bottles. While recycling capacities are poised for growth, their efficiency remains constrained by the bottleneck of PET bottle collection. Without a paradigm shift in collection strategies, many recyclers could be running at mere fractions of their capacities. This operational inefficiency could further escalate feedstock prices, reflecting this supply-demand disparity.

Recent recycled polymer market dynamics underscore the opportunities that lie ahead for stakeholders in Europe and Asia. For its part, Europe is showing an encouraging uplift in the rPET sector. Rising prices for colourless bales coupled with a surge in PET prices are rekindling interest from buyers in the sheet and thermoforming sectors towards rPET flake.

In Asia, current market conditions are beckoning recyclers to broaden their client base and exercise prudence in decision-making; however, the horizon promises a market resurgence by the second quarter of 2024.

Meanwhile, a transient slump has occurred in rPET flake prices in Thailand and Indonesia. Regardless, Taiwan stands resilient as the prime market for these cargoes, holding its formidable position in the rPET pellet export spectrum. Thai Shinkong, the joint venture between Mitsubishi and Taiwan’s Shinkong, has set the stage for a transformative era in bottle-grade rPET production. With a significant production capacity targeting the Japanese export market, the initiative heralds a promising trajectory.

Despite some short-term challenges in September, the unveiling of new capacities by industry leaders such as Indorama and TSIC suggests a vibrant future for the Asian rPET market. Moreover, China’s expansionary plans for virgin PET capacity will introduce a new set of dynamics to the market landscape.

Rabobank projections also shine a light on the potential for a thriving rPET market in South East Asia. By 2030, they suggest, demand for food-grade rPET could soar 10- to 15-fold, driven primarily by sustainability benchmarks set by global food and beverage giants. This prospective trend is bound to channel investments into collection and recycling infrastructure in the region.

Momentum in the implementation of extended producer responsibility programmes - notably in Vietnam (led by PRO Vietnam), the Philippines and Indonesia - promises to bolster recycling collection rates. The spotlight, however, remains on securing a consistent flow of high-quality feedstock for food-grade rPET.

Meanwhile, 2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for chemical recycling, with critical developments expected to unfold. As Europe sees inaugural large-scale projects taking root, Asia is gearing up for construction start-up on its ambitious ventures. At the forefront of these initiatives is Plastic Energy, spearheaded by its visionary ceo Carlos Monreal. Its leadership and dedication to redefining plastic recycling indicate a step-change for the industry.

So while the immediate challenges in the rPET market require deft navigation, the imminent opportunities hold the promise of prosperity ahead. As the industry progresses, it is essential to leverage such opportunities to realize our collective vision of a sustainable future.