US R-PP market welcomes increased capacity in 2022

Emily Friedman

13-Jan-2022

HOUSTON (ICIS)–To meet rising demand in 2022, the US recycled polypropylene (R-PP) market continues to grow in capacity.

Many US recyclers announced facility expansions in 2021 in a race to catch up with sustainability driven demand. Recently, KW Plastics commissioned a new R-PP wash line in Troy, Alabama, with an installed capacity of 50,000 tonnes/year.

KW publishes its total capacity at over 450,000 tonnes/year and claims to be the largest HDPE/PP recycler in the world.

Earlier this month, PlastiCycle Corp also announced a $6m project to expand their recycled high density polyethylene (R-HDPE) and R-PP operations by acquiring a facility in Franklin, Kentucky. The company hopes the facility will be operational by the end of March.

Demand for recycled plastics in the US has dramatically increased as fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies pledge to utilise post-consumer recycled (PCR) material in their packaging products. This demand is echoed in the record high prices seen in 2021 for R-HDPE and recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET).

Despite the enthusiasm from market participants, the industry is set to face many headwinds.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the recycled plastics supply chain, from logistics disruptions to labour shortages. Construction for this wash line faced similar challenges, running five months over schedule.

On the back of these struggles, R-PP has been controversially labelled by some as non-recyclable in practice, as only a small fraction of material is actively collected in communities.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s most recent data from 2018, only 8.7% of plastic in the US consumer waste stream was recycled, with R-PP significantly trailing R-HDPE and R-PET.

Mechanical recycling capacities reflect this disparity.

To bolster growth in this area, organisations like the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition have been formed, providing support via educational programs and collection infrastructure grants. Many believe additional legislation and national infrastructure support is needed in order to boost public recycling, much like the recently passed PCR bill in New Jersey.

ICIS is currently prototyping a US R-PET price report, covering premium and curbside post-consumer bales for both East Coast and West Coast, bottle-derived and post-industrial hot-washed flakes, and food-grade pellets. To find out more about the new report, or to receive a copy of the prototype, please contact Emily Friedman at emily.friedman@icis.com

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