Low prices for recycled plastic leads to export and landfill

The global market for plastic scrap and recycled plastics continues to feel downward pressure from low virgin plastic prices and other factors, resulting in increased landfilling and export of plastic waste. US exports of plastic scrap have dropped 7% from the first half of 2022 to the same period this year with the price for plastic scrap continuing to drop in recent months. Some “recyclers” are now sending these plastics to landfills, as it is cheaper to pay a one-time fee to dispose of the plastic scrap than it is to process it at current market prices. In the EU and UK, the cost to landfill is often higher, and there are often stricter rules on what can be landfilled. Due to this, exports of plastic scrap to Asia and Turkey have been steadily increasing in recent months. Because of falling levels of recycling, Ireland has disposed of more plastics than ever by incineration. European industry leaders are questioning if low-cost imported recycled PET is compliant with stringent EU regulations, as it may be putting the European production of recycled PET at an added disadvantage. A French industry group representing mechanical recyclers in the country has called for emergency measures to support the industry, warning of reduced output and closures amongst recyclers due to the “extraordinary” market conditions.

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