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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.