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  • BIR World Mirror on Plastics – Issue May 2024: Worries over chemical recycling boost and shortage of qualified personnel

BIR World Mirror on Plastics – Issue May 2024: Worries over chemical recycling boost and shortage of qualified personnel

  • 13 May 2024

Plastics Mirror

A concise summary of the BIR World Mirror on Plastics – Issue May 2024. Full version with detailed market reports available in the Members Only section of the BIR website.

The market for recycled plastic in Europe has improved since the beginning of this year - but only slightly rather than substantially, according to the latest World Mirror publication compiled by the BIR global recycling organization’s Plastics Committee. Prices are reasonably stable at present, although HIPS regranulate and PET natural have posted noteworthy increases.

In Europe, severe shortages of qualified personnel are becoming evident in the plastic recycling industry. Meanwhile, chemical recycling could be on the verge of a worrying breakthrough because the European Commission appears likely to apply a mass balance approach to its recycling calculations, thus creating an uneven playing field between mechanical and chemical recyclers.

In China, recycled PE and PE have maintained stable prices amid steady demand whereas PS, POM, ABS, PMMA, PC and nylon values have increased, reflecting prime price hikes and increased demand for recycled content. Meanwhile, the availability of high-quality rPET feedstock remains tight in key Asian markets such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, influencing both local pricing and export potential.

One of the key themes at a major US plastics recycling conference in March this year was the negative impact cheap plastic imports have had on the domestic industry. In the case of PET, a recent report stated that imports have increased 33% year on year, thereby affecting all reclaimers but especially those on the West Coast as this is the first port of call from South East Asia from where most of the PET imports originate. Mexico continues to be an aggressive buyer of PET bales from the USA in order to meet increased demand as a result of expanded capacity.

Another report, “The Circular Economy for Plastics” from Plastics Europe, warns that Europe is suffering a loss of competitiveness in the production of plastic raw materials compared to China and the USA, with its share of global production falling from 22% in 2006 to 14% in 2022. Europe is expected to become increasingly dependent on imports.

Staying with Europe, the final text of the EU’s new Waste Shipment Regulation enters force in May 2026. This confirms that the export ban for plastics will start from November 2026 and that recycling facilities located outside the EU but processing waste from the EU will be audited by an independent third party by May 2027. 

Meanwhile, the EU’s new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation has introduced stringent recycled content requirements but also compliance measures for imports into the EU which may significantly impact rPET exports from Asia to Europe. Asian exporters now face the challenge of aligning with these strict standards to maintain access to the European market for customers looking at meeting minimum recycled content criteria.

The conflict in the Middle East has served to undermine market conditions in the region since the latter part of this year’s first quarter. Impacts are said to have included delayed shipments and slow payments.

 Read all international market reports

With contributions from its members, BIR publishes periodical commodity reports under the label "BIR World Mirror". These detailed reports exist for Non-Ferrous MetalsFerrousStainless Steel / AlloysPaperPlastics and Latin America and provide BIR members with up-to-date information on the respective commodity or market segment.

The report on Non-Ferrous Metals appears once every two months, whereas Ferrous, Stainless Steel, Paper and Plastics are published quarterly. Latin America is covered twice per year.