Recycled Plastics Market Begins to Stabilize

It is no secret that the last two months of 2008 and the first two months of 2009 were especially trying times for industries across the economic spectrum.

What many may not realize, however, is that the recycling industry—which has steadily grown over its 30-year lifespan—was hit hard by the economic downturn as well.

Materials such as plastic pile up at warehouses, causing surpluses that drive down prices for recycled goods. Photo: Telegraph.co.uk

Materials such as plastic pile up at warehouses, causing surpluses that drive down prices for recycled goods. Photo: Telegraph.co.uk

As domestic recyclables in the U.S. continued to provide a relatively constant supply, demand decreased from China.

At one point during the most prominent part of the downturn, boatloads of recycled goods were stalled in Chinese harbors because of the lowered demand.

Currently, inventories in recycling warehouses remain high, and many managers do not want to accept more supply until the market picks back up again.

Some municipalities are even recognizing the drop in recycling commodity prices and offering suggestions for what to do about it.

The North Shore Recycling Program of North Vancouver, British Columbia, suggests that citizens continue to recycle, but do all that they can to help alleviate the need for recycling companies to stockpile materials in warehouses by reducing their waste as much as possible and by reusing all possible materials.

Recycling industry representatives suggest that the tide is turning, with export demand building up slowly and domestic demand finally stabilizing. And unlike other sectors of the economy, most recycling companies seem to have weathered the rough times and stayed in business.

Reasons for optimism and potential growth in the recycling industry include:

  • Corporate sustainability programs are on the rise, with interests in cradle-to-cradle recycling and landfill avoidance strategies.
  • New technologies are being developed that better recover the polymers from plastics.
  • Electronic equipment recycling continues to increase, with manufacturers leading the way in identifying and separating reclaimable materials.
  • Recycled plastics stay in demand because they do a better job for less money than other materials.

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