Market update for the prime, recycled, and scrap plastics as of May 12, 2023.

Prime virgin prices are sourced from major virgin polymer websites in China and quoted in Renminbi (RMB), with an exchange rate of 1 US dollar, equalling Chinese Yen at 6. 9592.

New York oil prices edged down 10 percent from two week’s high, settling at $70.04 in New York on Friday on a stronger dollar and economic concerns in the US and China.

Most prime resins in China have fallen to recent year lows due to the absence of economic recovery, a high volume of polyolefin imports from overseas, and an oversupply of general plastics, including Styrenics resins, PET, PVC, PC, and Nylon. Despite some petrochemical companies delaying their start-up of new production plants, there is still an over-stock of prime materials. With the weakening prices of crude oil, market players are hesitant to make purchasing commitments. The worst-preformed prime materials, such as ABS, PC, PP, PE, PET, and PVC, are predicted to continue their downward trend in the near term due to low-demand seasons, a sluggish domestic economy, and a lack of overseas manufacturing orders. ABS prices have dropped by 45 % compared to October 2021, now at $1100 per ton, while PC prices have reached a three-year low of $1800 per ton, reflecting a 44 % decrease. PVC prices continue to decline, reaching the $ 700 level, and bottle-grade PET is being sold at $1030 in southern China. Some petrochemical companies have opted to shut down production or reduce operation rates to avoid losses. Globally, prices are generally 50 % lower than during the pandemic periods from 2021 to 2022 summer. Given high-interest rates, political and economic uncertainties, volatile energy prices, and overcapacity, prices are expected to remain low in the near future.

In China, recycled materials such as PET, PP, and LDPE are being sold for as low as US $ 600 per ton for mixed colors and black. However, in the US, PCR natural recycled HDPE pellets have seen, nearing $3000 per ton, while black HDPE recycled pellets PCR are priced at $ 1250 per ton. PET natural recycled pellets PCR are sold at $ 1750, and color PET bottles at $ 900 per ton. These prices are higher than those of prime materials because brand owners have committed themselves, either voluntarily or mandatorily, to sustainability programs that require the use of PCR-recycled content in their feedstocks. This has driven the demand and price increases for recycled materials. On the other hand, recycled materials that are not part of the PCR recycled content program are only sold below prime prices. There have been discussions about urgently introducing the use of recycled content in various plastic products beyond packaging to support the recycling industry, as prime materials are now in competition with recycled pellets. Currently, recyclers who can sell their pellets as recycled content can survive, while those who are not eligible may struggle, especially in Asia.

Presently, scrap plastic prices depend on whether their recycled materials can be marketed as “recycled content” for environmental sustainability purposes. In the US, PCR HDPE bottles’ natural price is sold at $ 1750 per ton, while mixed-color HDPE bottles are sold at $ 450 per ton. PCR PET grade A bottles are sold at $ 450 per ton and mixed-color at $ 300 per ton. Prices for post-consumer film scraps have declined, with grade A natural film being sold at $380-$450 per ton FAS at US and European ports. Recyclers in Asia are unable to accept most scrap prices because their ultimate end-users cannot match the targeted recycled pellet prices due to the low prime virgin resin prices. Engineering scrap plastics remain low and are being impacted by recent low prices of the prime virgin. Engineering scrap plastics, especially polycarbonate, POM, and nylon, remain at low levels and have been impacted by the recent decline in prime prices. Most scrap materials are being sold in domestic markets in the US and European countries, driven by increasing demands for recycled content in the automobile and electrical and electronic appliance industries. As an example of price mismatch, PC bottle regrinds are quoted at $1300 in the US and Europe, while Asian markets can only accept $ 1100 CNF major ports in Asia. Scrap plastic players in Asia have to wait for a market turnaround before they can import scrap plastics from overseas.

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