Plastics recycling is in the news today, the subject of a Page 1 story in The Wall Street Journal headlined “Recycling becomes a tougher sell as prices drop.”
The story tells the plight of plastics recyclers that is the result of lower prices for virgin resin.
When virgin plastic prices were high, as recently as September, recyclers benefited because they could offer plastics processors a low-cost alternative resin.
But now that virgin prices have spiked up, recyclers are suffering. The report cites several major plastics recyclers in Europe that have filed for bankruptcy.
We knew this story was coming, because the WSJ staff asked Plastics News senior reporter Frank Esposito last week for our data on virgin and recycled resin pricing. The WSJ used the data in a graphic that accompanies the story.
The key thing that the WSJ reporter Serena Ng wanted to show was that prices for certain virgin resins are actually higher right now than prices for their recycled equivalents. The example we gave her was virgin PET bottle resin and post-consumer clear PET pellets. That's one of the highest volume recycled plastics, and it's a fair apples-to-apples comparison, especially for readers who aren't that familiar with plastics materials.
The virgin resin prices that the WSJ is showing are different from what PN currently shows on its resin pricing chart, which may confuse our readers. We adjusted the current price for virgin bottle resin down 15 cents per pound to reflect actual market prices, as opposed to contract pricing. That's why the WSJ story says that as of late March, the cost of virgin PET had fallen to 67 cents a pound (rather than 83 cents, which our pricing page says).