The market for recycled plastics and paper will undergo a massive change next year with China’s ban for importing scrap plastics starts 1 January 2018. China announced last July that it will stop accepting imports of used plastics and paper to take steps to clean up its industrial pollution. China also wants to force its plastics scrap buyers to use its growing domestic supplies.
The China ban could shift about 2% of global PE plastics supply from recycled to new material, according to an article from Bloomberg. China accounted for 51% of the world’s plastic scrap imports last year with the biggest contribution coming from the USA. About 30% of North America’s recyclables were historically processed in China. Global prices for for scrap plastics have already dropped 10% with prices for bulk rigid scrap this year down to 2.5 cents/lb from 9 cents/lb.
According to the Bloomberg article, the US West Coast appears to be the hardest hit with some recyclers limiting the types of plastics they will accept and waste haulers in rural parts of Oregon recently began steering some plastic to the trash dump because the market is drying up. Some scraps could be diverted to waste-to-energy plants although this technology is still on the cusp of commercialization and some environmentalists are not happy with this option compared to recycling. There are increasing use of recycled content in US packaging but the uptake for this option is also very slow.
With the potential slowdown in plastic recycling rates, do you think compostable plastic materials could get a shot for an increase uptake? Let me know your thoughts!