The United Kingdom non-profit Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is hosting a meeting this week with leading figures in the supermarket supply chain to look at balancing the market for recycled high density polyethylene and help stricken recycling firm Closed Loop.
Hit by the double blow of low oil prices and a supermarket price war, Britain's biggest recycler of plastic milk bottles is facing possible collapse.
The Dagenham, England-based firm has warned it could be forced to call in administrators because clients have cut back on buying recycled plastic.
PRW has been told by Closed Loop and WRAP that a meeting will take place this week with retailers and the supply chain to address the problem.
WRAP CEO Liz Goodwin said: “The contribution that a thriving and vibrant plastics recycling industry can make to both overall resource efficiency within the U.K. and the economy in general, is considerable. At the same time, recycled plastics are commodities that tend to track the prices of their virgin equivalents. Right now, the low oil price means that virgin plastic prices are low.
“This problem is currently being made worse for the HDPE market by the high prices for recovered plastic HDPE bottles in Europe — the feedstock for some of these plastic recycling plants. This is a result of temporary supply disruptions in the U.S., causing Asia to look to Europe for its recovered plastic bottles.
“This means that some of our pioneering food grade plastic HDPE recycling plants in the U.K. are facing highly squeezed margins at the moment with high input material prices and low finished product prices. To be viable they need to sell recycled food grade plastic HDPE at a higher price than virgin plastic.
“WRAP is talking to the industry about this.”
Through the WRAP-led Courtauld Commitment, leading retailers, manufacturers and suppliers have voluntarily signed up to reduce waste within the U.K. grocery sector.
Goodwin added: “Right now, buying virgin HDPE for milk bottles might seem the better buy, but it is not a long term approach. Commodity prices go up and down. Recycled food grade HDPE will be a good buy again but if we don't stick with it now, there won't be any to buy in the U.K., and that would be a real loss for us all. Having our own supply of these key raw materials offers a level of resilience which will become increasingly important in this increasingly unstable world.
“To make this happen, we need the whole supply chain to come together, to look at where the risks lie and to look at how best to share those risks so all can benefit. Industry might need to pay a premium for high quality food grade recycled plastics so that it can honor the important commitments it has made. However, in the context of falling plastic prices overall, this should be affordable.”