UK recyclables in demand in China

Chinese demand for recyclable materials has helped to boost prices for UK firms selling materials abroad, MPs have been told.

Research by WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) revealed that overseas buyers have helped to push prices up by £15 a tonne for cardboard, by £10 a tonne for mixed papers and by £5 per tonne for steel.

Marcus Gover, WRAP’s director of market development told the Association Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group the figures showed markets for recyclables are stabilising.

Recycling prices had slumped as a result of the economic downturn.

“Our research shows export demand returning in recent weeks from Europe, India and especially China, where the Chinese New Year break appears to have had no impact on the steady market progress,” Mr Gover said.

“Overall, the latest data suggests the markets are on a more stable footing with moving materials and achieving high prices, especially for mixed papers and plastic bottles.

“The figures are certainly encouraging, but it would be too early to say if we have a turning point just yet.”

But WRAP said high quality remains the key to shifting materials and achieving high prices, especially for mixed papers and plastics.

Lower export costs and the weak pound are believed to be major factors in making UK-sourced material more competitive abroad.

Prices for cardboard had dropped to £35 by mid-January, but had reached £50 a tonne by February 9, according to WRAP.

However, glass prices have not changed between mid-January and February 9, and the price of plastic PET bottles dropped by £10 per tonne.

Last month, Manchester-based firm Axion Recycling said the weak pound was making it more competitive on the continent and helping boost markets for UK recyclables (see related story).

Kate Martin

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