Volumes in recycling industry are slowly returnig to normal

As many countries move into a new phase of their response to COVID-19, BIR presents the latest in its series of expert updates on the impact of the pandemic on recycling markets around the world. The following article is based on contributions from the world organization’s President, its Divisional Presidents and Committee Chairmen.

ChinaHong Kong and Taiwan are slowly returning to normal; COVID-19 cases in China have been declining sharply over the past month while no new cases have been reported in Taiwan for two weeks. Customers have also begun purchasing normally, with non-ferrous metals volumes appearing to climb 20-30% compared to the previous week. The buying mood is being greatly impacted by the prospect of China’s reclassification of “recycled material” which is scheduled to come into effect for brass, copper and cast aluminium alloys on July 1.

Within Europe’s plastics recycling industry, there remains a feeling of uncertainty. Prices are still low owing to the oil price slump and huge stocks are overhanging the market. However, there are some glimmers of hope: companies are being allowed to restart production with the cancelling of some lockdown restrictions, and demand is slowly increasing. Among those to restart is the car industry, a major consumer of recycled raw materials.

European plastics recyclers obviously have little idea themselves how supply – and thus the entire pricing structure – will develop in the coming weeks. In China, factories are resuming production and, as a positive sign, prices of polypropylene and styrenics have increased over the last two weeks.

The textiles recycling sector is still experiencing very low demand from many end markets and for all qualities, although some markets in Eastern Europe are now showing the first signs of improvement. Furthermore, some graders have restarted production or have announced that they will be doing so within the coming days, albeit at reduced volumes. Collections of used textiles in Western Europe remain below normal levels but are also increasing.

As regards paper recycling, 77% of plants in France are now open and 3% are opening on appointment. Out of 18,000 employees, 10.5% are operating from home, 25% are working part-time and 7% are not working.

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