WEB EXCLUSIVE: RPET prices in the first quarter fluctuated but mostly ended up where they started. The exception was clear post-consumer flake, which went up about 2¢/lb for the quarter.
Virgin pricing seems to have restrained recycle prices. “There is a little weakness in pricing on the virgin side. That is not usually the case going into summer,” said one recycler. “However, that could be simply a correction because virgin pricing went up in January and February, so maybe suppliers are reversing a little of that.”
In post-consumer recycle, there seems to be more demand than supply, putting upward pressure on prices. Couple that with virgin pricing weakness, and the stage is set for competition between virgin and RPET. Said one market analyst, “From the post-consumer side, you have to sacrifice a little bit of margin to keep the material moving. There’s a whole market that is not buying based on post-consumer content, but based on price.”
According to one West Coast source, “The Chinese haven’t been in the market, but we hear they are coming back in slowly. If they start to make a serious move, then things can change quickly—and there is already a supply deficit.” Some sources say 60% to 65% of the West Coast supply is now staying domestic. That number was probably 45% to 50%, at best, not too long ago.
California is a story in itself. “So many recycling companies opened in the state, and there was not enough good-quality bales in the market to process them. We ended up paying a nickel a pound more than the Chinese market. That has to be a first in history!” says one California reprocessor. “Although the Chinese market is down, we are still paying a higher bale price. The bale price today for the Chinese is 25.78¢/lb. Some domestic reprocessors are still offering as high as 30¢ or 31¢.” That situation may not last. “As we enter April, there are going to be more bottles in the market. That should ease up the supply/demand balance and perhaps change the pricing scenario.
Expectations for the next several months are that virgin prices will come down through the fall and post-consumer prices will rise.
RPET Prices, March 2013
PET Bottles (Clean) Pellets, ¢/lb Flake, ¢/lb
Clear Post-Consumer 70-75 57-64
Green Post-Consumer 60-65 52-56