RPET prices were sliding lower at the end of 2011, but they began the climb back up by mid-January.

RPET prices were sliding lower at the end of 2011, but they began the climb back up by mid-January. The reason is increased demand, as far as post-consumer material is concerned. What’s more, virgin PETprices are expected to go up in April and “Virgin tends to pull post-consumer prices up along with it,” as one recycler puts it. At press time last month, virgin producers announced 6¢/lb increases, and have gotten about half of that so far, recyclers said.

By the end of the first quarter of 2012, oil prices had soared, which affects feedstocks for virgin PET. “As oil prices rise, virgin resin producers try to recoup. Post-consumer pellet produces are also seeing their raw-material prices rise,” analysts say.

Chinese scrap-plastic buyers, who backed off toward the end of last year, have returned to the
West Coast market, which is now very active. “The Chinese were paying only 20¢/lb for bales at one point, but as of mid-March those prices were back to 42¢/lb,” one source says. What’s important to mention, though, he says, is that more than half of the RPET available on the West Coast is being used domestically. That was not the case in the past, so this adds to the competitive situation.

The East Coast RPET market is not all that different than it was last year, says another source. Why it sagged toward the end of last year had to do with buyers paying close attention to their inventories, he says: “They didn’t want to get caught long or short. The situation took a while to shake out. Clear flake is particularly hot right now, therefore prices are likely to push up here. Green prices are likely to go up as well as new uses for green are in development.”