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Current trend on Plastic Scrap Market

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by - 9/4/2015 11170 Views

Plastic Scrap & Modernisation

In today’s modern or modernized world, plastic is playing a very important role, a major role I should say. The manufacture and distribution of plastics is everywhere. The PET bottle that you & I use to hold drinking water, the card that we swipe for transactions is today called as “Plastic Money” & of course the latest electronic gadgets which define our lifestyle, after all is the product made of plastic scrap. Between 1950 and 2011, the global production of plastics grew at an average rate of 9% annually and all indications point to continued growth. In 2011, global plastics production increased by 10 million tons to reach 280 million tons, according to ISRI sources.

With this kind of explosive growth in the manufacture of plastics it is very important to ensure that these materials are recycled in an environmentally responsible manner once they reach the end of their useful lives. In addition, recycling of engineered and industrial plastics present tremendous opportunities that demonstrate plastics recycling today is “Bigger Than the Bin.”

It is also important to note that; plastic scarp plays a vital role in providing a greener environment. Recycled plastic can provide enormous benefits over the use of its virgin counterparts. For example, plastic lumber made with scrap plastic bags, and other materials, conserves trees and eliminates the need to use hazardous chemicals to treat wood that will be used outdoors.

Despite the use of plastics in various forms in everyday life, no one really thought about recycling when plastics were first put into use. The technology to cost-effectively sort and recycle plastics has been developed in just the past 20 years, according to the U.S. EPA, plastic recycling results in significant energy savings (an estimated 50–75 MBtus /ton of material recycled) compared with production of new plastics using virgin material.

While it is important that consumers recycle the plastic containers that hold food, beverages, and household cleaners as well as other plastics that arise in the home, recycling of engineered and industrial plastics is vital. Plastics scrap can be of different types of plastics. Scrap is normally retrieved from industrial, commercial and residential use, plastics scrap is a very common waste. Plastic scrap is normally obtained from used packaging materials, recipients, toys, etc.

The origin of plastic scrap can be from several sources; all around us we have different types & varieties of plastic. Plastic in itself has different physical characteristics that effect its application. Unlike other metal scraps, identifying plastic can be difficult for anyone, however you can find on most products you buy labeling which identifies the type of plastic it is. If you look close enough you'll surely find PP, LDPE, or HDPE or PET written on the packaging, each one refers to a type of plastic.

Most plastics can be recycled, however non-recycled plastic and recycled plastic have different industrial applications. Some products are made from non-recycled plastic, this type of plastic is pure, and it’s commonly called virgin plastic. In almost every type of plastic you'll have two grades for each type: virgin and recycled.

Identifying the most common types of plastic may be relatively simple for someone who is a professional plastic dealer, but can be difficult for everyone else. The easiest way is see if it is labeled, as I mentioned some household plastic scrap may have its type printed or embossed. Although even the professional has difficulty in identifying the more complex types of plastic which requires them to use more advanced testing to identify its type.

                The most common plastics you may find are PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high density polyethylene) which is used in bottles. The following list will include some of the most common plastics and its general type of use:


1. PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate)

  • Physical description: clear strong plastic, can be used as a fiber
  • Applications for virgin plastic: bottling, textile fibers
  • Applications for recycles plastic: bottles, packaging film, fibers for carpets


2. HDPE (high density polyethylene)

  • Physical description: white or coloured
  • Applications for virgin plastic: shopping bags, bottles (example: milk, cream, shampoo, etc), crates to carry bottles, pallets, water, gas and other pipes
  • Applications for recycles plastic: bottles (detergent and others), crates, pallets, agriculture watering pipes, plastic boxes


3. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

  • Physical description: clear strong plastic
  • Applications for virgin plastic: plumbing accessories and pipes, bottles
  • Applications for recycles plastic: plumbing accessories, bottles


4. LDPE (low density polyethylene)

  • Physical description: soft flexible plastic
  • Applications for virgin plastic: plastic sheets, plastic lids (example: tupperware lids)
  • Applications for recycles plastic: electrical tubes for wires, film for packaging and agriculture use


5. PP (Polypropylene)

  • Physical description: Hard plastic, but is flexible
  • Applications for virgin plastic: straws for soft drinks, chips bags, lunch pales, recipients (like ice cream)
  • Applications for recycles plastic: compost bins, boxes

 The Recycled Plastics Composite Index tracks the changing market prices in the scrap and secondary plastics industry. The Index consists of a weighted basket of specific benchmark grades of recovered and secondary plastic. The benchmarks include specific grades of PET, HDPE, LDPE, PVC, PP, PS, PC and ABS. The Index includes snapshots of 5 viewpoints of market trend in Aug 2015

The Plastic scrap market too is going through a woeful period as some of the analysts opine that it is due to the dip in the global oil prices as one of the factors, but there are others who arguably say that the recent OGF policy introduced by China is the major cause for the downward trend.


The below graphic illustration explains how the manufacturing market of the branded Apple Laptop is suffering gradually  and projects a downward trend till 2022.

Market analysts say one of the reasons is because of OGF.

What is OGF? Beginning in February of 2013 China launched what they're calling "Operation Green Fence", a 10-month long initiative that kicked off in February to prevent the importation of solid waste-contaminated shipments. Operation Green Fence has set a limit of 1.5 percent prohibitive, or allowable contaminant, in each bale, in an effort to keep trash out of China. Headed by Wang Jiwei, vice president and secretary-general of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association Recycling Metal Branch (CMRA), the new initiative will include random inspection of all forms of “imported waste,” meaning metal, plastic, textiles, rubber and recovered paper materials.

This OGF (Operation Green Fence) policy of China has changed the plastic recycling industry globally both negatively & positively. Firstly, let’s see the negative impact, the Value of the Recyclables Decreased: The immediate impact of OGF was a substantial decrease of value of recyclables. Before OGF came into force, the demand for recyclables was high and the processing costs was quite low as there was not much processing required as contaminated waste could be exported to China. The market prices were high as well. But after the OGF was introduced, the recyclers those who built their business models assuming that high level of contamination would easily be exported had to change their processes, resulting in significant decrease of demand and market price of the recyclables.

Higher Processing Cost: Prior to OGF 3-10 percent contamination in shipment bales was allowed by the Chinese Customs officials.  But once the policy came into effect, anything more than 1.5 percent contamination was rejected. The word “Contamination” sounds a little too negative as it indicated the presence of other material in a bale other than the material being sold. So, the presence of a piece of newspaper in a bale of cardboard was regarded contaminated. So, the recycling facilities in the U.S. and European countries had to adapt quickly to the policy change by improving the processing and decreasing the contamination levels.

Secondly, let’s look at the Positive Impacts of Operation Green Fence: Given an Opportunity to Build a Strong Domestic Market: Surely OGF paved the way for industry players to brain storm on the possible ways to develop a stronger domestic market, studying the negatives of curbside recycling problems that contaminate recyclables, while reevaluating the sustainability of an export based recycling system. David Newman, president of the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), said, “We must think twice about the costs and benefits of exporting recyclables to developing countries and identify the consequences along the value chain of a monopoly market player like China." That being said, building a stronger domestic market is surely one of the top alternative to U.S. and European countries. 

Focus Shifted To More Sustainable Recycling Innovations: To build a stronger domestic recycling market, a wave of innovation and investment in recycling technologies was necessary. So, the focus of the recyclers gradually shifted to finding more sustainable handling and treatment techniques. One such example is Veolia UK, an environmental services firm that invested £5 million in plastics recycling innovations and expressed their interest to invest £1 billion in recycling infrastructure in UK.

Improved Waste Quality: OGF is one of the many reasons behind the current crisis in U.S. recycling industry. But it has surely helped U.S. recyclers to improve the quality of waste prepared for export. Yes, it may take years to make the waste quality as good as it should be as the flaws of curbside recycling programs make it quite difficult and costly to short and process the recyclables.

 Speakers at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) 2015 Convention & Exposition Spotlight on Plastics session described trends shaping the plastics recycling industry. Surendra Borad of Gemini Corp., Antwerp, Belgium, provided a European perspective, while Kathy Xuan of Parc Corp., Romeoville, Illinois, provided a look at the market in China from the perspective of someone with operations in that country as well as in the U.S.

When it comes to pricing for plastic scrap, Borad said, “There is no direct linear correlation between oil and plastic scrap prices.” He added, “The market is still immature. Prices also are affected by regulatory policies and quality.”

Xuan said China’s Operation Green Fence led to a significant turnaround in the plastics recycling business. She said the number of companies approved to ship this material to China has declined from 1,879 in 2012 to 1,582 in 2014, while the volume of material imported has increased, reaching 17.6 million metric tons in 2014 from nearly 15 million metric tons in 2012.

In conclusion, Operation Green Fence seems to have had a great negative impact to global recycling until now. But it has presented western recycling businesses and municipalities with an opportunity to evaluate their existing business processes and policies and find alternatives to an export based recycling system.

Category : Plastic

Tags : Plastic Scrap, Plastic Scrap Market, Plastic Scrap

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About Georgy Abraham

As the bright morning of 28th May dawned in the year 1972, in the fulfillment of time according to the plan & will of Almighty Godbrought me forth into this world and I was brought up & educated in Orissa. My parents provided me with the best of education in an English medium school with high standa .... more info


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