UK recovered plastics: new analysis

The latest data and in depth information about UK plastics recycling and reprocessing has been published by WRAP.

The updated Plastics Market Situation Report includes detailed analysis of recovered plastic flows, prices and the sustainability of end markets, including the risks and opportunities. It reviews trends past and present, and updates on data reported by the organisation since the previous report was published in 2011.

Three key themes covered in the report include:

  • Progress – significant improvements have been made by local authorities, the recycling industry and the wider supply chain towards achieving a circular economy for plastics. This includes a sharp increase in recycling of plastic packaging (up more than 50% since 2009), the introduction of mixed plastic collections by the majority of local authorities (up to an estimated 67% in 2014/15) and lightweighting by brands and retailers
  • End markets – the report gives a detailed assessment of the different plastics end markets in the UK and aboard, by polymer and by end user. Despite concern from brands, manufacturers, local authorities and reprocessors, the report shows there is a wide range of end market sectors and applications potentially available for UK collected plastics
  • Plastic recyclers – plastic recyclers are particularly vulnerable to changes in market conditions due to their position in the middle of the supply chain; often feeling the squeeze from both sides, as well as higher costs and lower output prices. The decline in the price of oil has often been raised as a contributing factor behind difficulties in the UK plastics recycling sector. This report shows that this is not the whole story, with plastic prices often showing a weak relationship to oil.

Marcus Gover, director at WRAP, comments, “Much has been achieved but there is still more to be done with challenging targets looming and testing market conditions.

“This report provides much needed clarity to some of the challenges the sector has faced recently, as well as confidence on where to invest next. Plastic recyclers don’t have to wait for oil prices to rise again. There are markets out there that will work that aren’t linked to oil prices. It’s about keeping costs low, not overreaching and identifying an end product to sell the reprocessed materials into.”

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