Recycling Summary 2020

2020 Recycling Market Summary

Where do we start…..

Well in the recycling world I can summarise a few key points that business consumers will find interesting.

Overall, there has been strong demand for packaging grades such as cardboard and paper. Pretty much every consumer in the UK has contributed to this increase in demand, quite simply we are spending more money shopping online than we have before. Each of those deliveries requires packaging, boxes, cushioning, wrapping and often another cardboard box to be sure we get our goods safe and sound. More of us are discovering the convenience of online shopping through necessity and while most of the UK remains in a state of lockdown the demand looks to continue, maybe our buying habits will change forever?

Exporting our recycling has always been a staple of the UK’s recycling market. Forming a pivotal position for many UK recyclers and brokers the export route has typically provided the industry with a good dependable disposal route. However, high shipping costs and a lack of empty shipping containers has narrowed options for many UK exporters.  Combining this with countries like China who stopped accepting waste paper during 2020 the market has shifted yet again.

The recycled plastics markets have suffered from an end of shipping of plastic grades to non-OECD countries as part of Basel convention.

We saw a spike in demand for tissue at the start of Q2 2020, due to a significant increase in the demand for toilet tissue, wipes, and hand towels. This created a rapid increase in paper prices for grades like office and printing papers. Although this price hike was short-lived as the demand from mills fell due to a reduction in the export market for their products.

Those obligated under the Packaging Waste Regulations saw one of the largest increases in history for their Plastic obligation. Many industry commentators pointed to fraud playing a crucial part in the hike as the production of recycled plastics and the generation of PRN’s were out of balance. A fall in prices at the end of 2020 did little to help those forced to pay the extremely high rates for half of the year.

Lockdown has also affected the newsprint and printed paper market with generation down considerably. Printers of holiday brochures, new goods sellers, car manufacturers, and other mainstream traditional print manufacturers have felt a brutal drop in demand as businesses remain closed and buyers shift to online resources over traditional print.

Rising prices for recycled paper have fallen largely on deaf ears as offices remain closed, homeworking forming a day-to-day staple for those who remain at work and large swathes of the UK workforce on the government’s furlough scheme affecting the generation of office paper for recycling.

We nearly went a whole article without mentioning it but, now we mention it, Brexit. Brexit has created confusion across the shipping transport and haulage sectors, compounded with the huge delays seen across UK ports the cost of doing business with the rest of Europe has in one way or another increased. The delays we have seen on most of our televisions and news articles have shown how difficult things have actually been for exporters, not just via road but deep-sea shipping, although less documented it has also seen widespread disruption.

Really 2020 has shown us how much of an impact many small changes have when they come together at the same time.

How many times can that be recycled?

Do you know that some recyclable materials have a life expectancy? Some materials can be recycled multiple times, even an infinite number of times and others have a limit of maybe once or twice.

Paper – 5 to 7 times

Paper’s ability to be recycled is lowered each time it gets reused. Paper is made up of long fibres and every time it goes through the recycling process these fibres get shorter and shorter. The shorter they get the harder the paper is to recycle. On average printer paper can only be recycled 5 to 7 times, beyond this point the fibres will be too short and can’t be turned into paper anymore. They can, however, turn the paper into a paste which can then be used for things such as egg cartons.

Plastic – 1 to 2 times

On average plastic can only be recycled once or twice before it’s no longer recyclable, meaning it gets recycled into something else such as material for clothing like a fleece sweater. Whilst the items made from plastic can’t be recycled and will eventually end up in landfill, it’s much more energy-efficient to use reused plastic to make these items then it is to use new materials.

Glass – Infinite

Glass can be recycled an unlimited amount of times. Although, different types of glass have different melting points which means that they can’t be recycled together as they wouldn’t both be done at the same time when melting. Recycling glass is 33% more energy-efficient than it is to create it from scratch.

Metal – Infinite

Metal is categorised into ferrous and non-ferrous, but all metals have an infinite amount of times that they can be recycled without degrading. The difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals is that ferrous metals contain iron and non-ferrous metals don’t, meaning that they each have different qualities and uses.

Aluminium – Infinite

Finally, aluminium, which also has no limit to how many times it can be recycled because it doesn’t lose any quality.

Contact us for more information or advice about how you can recycle and become more sustainable.



Beach filled with man made rubbish

Tips and Tricks to recycling – small steps to saving our planet.



You see the news reports, you read about it online, you see the effects we have on our planet.

Now, how can we help save it? Well, in this blog we’re going to give you a few of our favourite tips and tricks to recycling.


One straightforward method is to reduce the amount of paper which you use. You can make use of both sides of the paper, most printers now days will come with the option to print on both sides, halving the amount of paper which you use. Imagine how much paper would be saved if everyone started doing this!


Paper Stack

Paper Stack – image credit to










How about trying to make your fruit juices and smoothies instead of buying cartons and bottles? We think this is a great idea. You could even go the extra mile and purchase the fruit from your local market, which will really reduce the amount of plastic you’re using.




Different fruit juices

Fruit juices – image credit to










Another one is to switch to a “litter-less lunch.” Now I know what you’re thinking, how is that possible? Small things such as not using plastic or paper bags to take your lunch into work. Instead, invest in a plastic or tin lunch box. You can also buy a refillable water bottle instead of buying lots of bottled water.


Different colour lunch boxes

Tin lunch boxes – image credit to










This brings us onto another tip, instead of buying lots of coffee cups from places like Costa or Starbucks, buy one of their reusable cups. Did you know you can also upcycle your coffee cups into other useful items, such as a makeup brush or pen holder. Just clean and redecorate the cup! For more cool upcycling ideas, check out our blog: How to upcycle. You can also give up plastic bottled water by buying a reusable water bottle!

Reusable coffee cup

Reusable coffee cup – image credit to








Did you know you can recycle water too? Well, you do now! For example, if you have boiled some pasta in a pot, use it to water your plants instead of just throwing it away. Wait until it has cooled down first though of course!

Check out this cool upcycled old table, turned into a plant bed:

Upcycled plant bed

Upcycled plant bed – image credit to



Say no to plastic bags at the supermarket and invest in reusable shopping bags. They’re relatively easy to get a hold of and in addition to saving the environment, can save you money even if it is just 5p per plastic bag.

Different colour reusable shopping bags

Shopping bags – image credit to









Do you have any examples of some recycling you’ve done yourself? Make sure you post it on your social media and tag us, our accounts are below. We’d love to hear your tips and tricks!