Since the implementation of the Basel Convention amendment on January 1 this year, Europe’s plastics scrap exporters have been left with very few overseas sales options, except for a handful of OECD countries. It is now virtually impossible for them to export baled plastic scrap to South and South East Asia, with Turkey alone remaining a viable option on account of its OECD membership coupled with lower labour costs and well-developed recycling infrastructure.
EU member states exported 20 times more plastic scrap to Turkey in 2020 than in 2016, with the volume soaring from 22,000 tonnes to 447,000 tonnes, and the first quarter of 2021 saw further increases. On May 18, however, Turkey decided to ban the importation of several types of plastic scrap (including lower-quality LDPE bales) following a public outcry over images of trash illegally dumped and burnt along roadsides.
Consequently, the great majority of plastics scrap generated in the EU will now remain within its borders. There is an urgent need, therefore, for the European Parliament to legislate rapidly in favour of increasing mandatory recycled contents in more plastic products in order to help recyclers find suitable outlets for their production.
In Asia, container prices have continued to rise, with rates to Europe experiencing an up to 10-fold increase in the past 12 months (typically from US$ 1350 to US$ 13,500 per 40-foot container), thereby further limiting opportunities to export flakes or recycled resins to Europe where prices remain much more attractive than what mainland China’s importers are able to offer.
Greencore Resources Limited (CHN), Board Member of the BIR Plastics Committee