Updated: May 8, 2019
By Richard Clews, Director
It never ceases to amaze me that despite Clews Recycling being only a regional
player in the waste and recycling world, we are still very much at the whim of world
events making the demand for recyclables very volatile.
Five years ago the value of scrap metal plummeted and one of the reasons was that
the sanctions placed on Russian oil following their march into Crimea caused them
to look for quick hard cash. They achieved this by dumping pig iron (low grade cast
iron from blast furnaces) onto the world market, the net effect was the value of scrap
metal fell as pig iron was a cheaper product to use.
Much has been made of China’s ban on imports of plastic waste and waste papers.
For a while in 2018 it looked like the collection of plastics for recycling would more or
less cease as China’s neighbours such as Thailand and Indonesia struggled to cope
with the sudden diversion of plastic waste to them.
One of the effects of a drop in demand and/or value is that the better quality grades
e.g. clean, clear polythene (98:2 LDPE) become so cheap that the grades that need
further cleaning and sorting e.g. Construction film (70:30 LDPE) do not just drop in
value, but they are not wanted at all. The re-processor’s now being able to buy
cleaner grades at prices they formally paid for dirty grades.
So, in May 2019 the perceived wisdom is that the demand for waste plastics will
have crashed and that Cardboard demand and price will stay strong, however in the
topsy turvy world that is Recycling, the value and demand for cardboard (OCC) for
export has fallen to such a level that it is only a little off that paid by UK mills. China
demands 99.5% purity of its imported OCC and was paying a premium of 20-30%
higher than our domestic mills but all of that has ended and there is currently no
benefit to produce the high specification grade for them, the short term outlook for
OCC is not good in terms of demand or price.
Bizarrely, totally against the run of play, rigid plastic grades that we have always
struggled to find homes for, now seem to be in much greater demand. Polypropylene
bags (white fertiliser and aggregate type bags) and Mixed Rigids (bales of rigid
plastics) that on occasions we have had to pay landfill costs to dispose of them, are
now in demand.
If you are within 25 miles of Rugby and have a regular volume of recyclables to
dispose of, we will be happy to give you our opinion on its value.