Survey suggests prices for recycled materials have bottomed

Prices for recyclable material may have been plummeting, but an environmental non-profit group is urging organisations to continue recycling as prices stabilise. A survey by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) suggests that prices in some areas have bottomed out, and may even be on the rise.

WRAP surveyed 200 organisations, including local government agencies, waste reprocessors and exporters, and found a fragile but recovering market. Paper prices, which have plummeted in recent months, have now bottomed out, according to the survey, although they are considerably lower than they were a year ago. In November, the Confederation of Paper Industries said that a lack of exports had seriously damaged the recovered paper market, adding that the expense of storing recyclables while waiting for prices to recover was becoming a serious business risk. Over 50 per cent of recovered paper sales are to overseas buyers, with the Far East representing three-quarters of all exports.

Recyclable glass pricing has been relatively unaffected by the downturn in the recycling business, while plastics prices vary according to material type, the survey said. High-density polyethylene, often used in milk jugs, laundry detergent containers and fuel tanks, was increasing in value. Prices for polyethylene terephthalate, a popular plastic in soft drinks bottles, were flat, although closed loop recycling (the use of old bottles to make new bottles) was relatively buoyant. Aluminum prices are stable, but subject to "downward pressure".

Falling prices for recyclable materials have been noted by local government authorities in the UK this year.

"Although prices are much lower now than they were a year or even two years ago, this is not the first time recovered materials have suffered from price volatility. In the mid 1990s a similar situation arose with prices falling substantially. They then rose again," said Sarah Brown, spokesperson for WRAP. "The current low price for these materials is linked to the global economic downturn."

According to the UK's Environmental Services Association [], waste management and secondary materials accounts for 0.8 per cent of the country's GDP.

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