WEB EXCLUSIVE: Recycled plastic prices are plummeting as virgin materials’ prices slide lower and lower. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the first half of the year. Prices were up January through April in most materials, but have since slid back down. With little strength in the economy, customers are buying only what they need and not holding any inventory as they wait for the lower prices that are likely to come.
While lower prices are good for processors, that hasn’t been enough to spur demand. “That situation is not expected to change until prices fall to the point that will allow new demand, and I don’t know where that point is,” said one industry analyst.
According to one recycler, “Recycled HDPE prices peaked in April. We saw mixed-color flake selling in the 53¢ to 54¢/lb range. We came into a lot of high demand early in the year with such a mild winter. Pipe manufacturers kept making and selling product. That seemed to clean out available post-industrial and post-consumer feedstock. Prices were inflated by demand.” In the last two months, however, more recycling capacity has added to supply and prices have started to come down. That’s expected to continue through the summer.
The West Coast and East Coast R-PET businesses continue to be quite separate. On the West Coast, “Business this year has been good with bale prices low,” said one reprocessor. “I have been saving about $1.2 million a month. On the other side of the coin, my selling prices have gone down as well. The market is collapsing in China so they are dumping their resins in California. In June, prices were 23.5¢/lb for bales in California.”
Clear flake prices on the West Coast, are in the low 60¢/lb range, sources there expect them to slide down into the 50s. Meanwhile, East Coast prices began to erode in April but are still holding around 68¢ to 82¢, one source said.
All this leaves recyclers shaking their heads. Said one, “I don’t recall a situation where you went into spring and summer and demand absolutely disappeared before you hit the first day of summer. We have seen lower pricing in the past, but there has always been a specific reason, for example. a storm or a plant shutdown. But, this time, it is the overall market. You can see a change of as much as 30¢ in 45 days…That’s huge.”