Global R-PET feedstock post-consumer bottle supply snug to very tight

Author: Felicia Loo

2021/05/06

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Global supply of post-consumer bottle (PCB) – the feedstock for the recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) market - was snug to extremely tight particularly in the West.

Supply of PCB remained snug in Asia, with both supply and demand stable to slow in some southeast Asia countries during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and ahead of the upcoming Eid ul Fitr holiday next week.

Bottle collection was affected for regions where workers returned to their hometowns, and that will keep supply of bales tight on the back of overall reduction in operations.  Some plants plan to shut for more than a week in May.

Other southeast Asia countries that participate less in Ramadan were otherwise still seeing snug PCB supply amid the pandemic that has persistently capped consumption and collection.

As such, PCB bales supply situation was unlikely to improve.

In addition, market players were monitoring a recent softening in virgin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) prices as some believe it will have an influence on PCB bales prices and buying interest in R-PET.

Meanwhile, recent regulatory developments around plastic waste and recycling continue to place the emphasis on the responsibility of producers and brand owners to tackle the end of life of plastics packaging.

Japan’s Bill for the Act on Promotion of Resource Circulation for Plastics announced in March 2021 introduces a focus on designing for recyclability at the manufacturer’s level, as well as stipulating the criteria for voluntary collection.

"It is crucial to recognize that Japan is able to put out a bill for product design and use because the country already has a robust post-consumer waste management. Therefore, the rest of Asia will need to strengthen their post-consumer waste management before working on product design and intended uses," said Joshua Tan, ICIS plastics recycling analyst.

This shift in Japan from end-of-life responsibility from government to private will see upstream producers designing more sustainable and easily recyclable products, after they are faced with the financial and physical burden of recycling their products.

As the industry moves towards a producer pay principle and more legislations mandate companies to internalise downstream costs, this should disincentivise downstream harms and incentivise upstream decisions.

With the development of this bill and EPR, upstream decisions will be more inclined to look at issues like recyclability of product and collection systems.

Potentially enabling increased supply of quality R-PET within these markets, supporting brands and producers to achieve their sustainability ambitions, and facilitating the formalisation of collection across parts of mentioned regions.

Meanwhile in India, Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee (CPCC) has issued a public notice asking all producers, importers and brand owners, recyclers and manufacturer of carry bags to fulfill extended producers’ responsibility (EPR) for plastic waste generated due to the products introduced by them in the market.

In the West, PCB availability is extremely tight across Europe, and if availability does not improve during the traditional summer PET bottle season, then the R-PET market may remain tight for the rest of the year.

This may allow R-PET sellers to keep offers high even if demand from the PET market slows down as the summer progresses.

PCBs are the feedstock for R-PET flake, which is increasing in demand from the botte-to-bottle sector, as well as seeing growing demand from the traditional offtake thermoforming market.

This demand is driven by sustainability targets and the desire of both beverage and food packaging brands to increase the amount of recycled content in their products – with many aiming for 100%.

Flake buyers across Europe now face challenges in securing the minimum volumes of flake needed to keep production plants running.

Focus article by Felicia Loo and Hazel Goh

Additional reporting by Matt Tudball

Image: Children collects plastic bottle from polluted river Buriganga in Dhaka Bangladesh (Kazi Salahuddin Razu/NurPhoto/Shutterstock)