Post-Consumer Recyclable Materials Prices Continue on Roller Coaster Ride

Post-Consumer Recyclable Materials Prices Continue on Roller Coaster Ride

Post-consumer PET prices have hit new lows, post-consumer HDPE prices have recovered gradually after falling this summer and corrugated paper prices fell back after rising in the third quarter.

Post-Consumer PET Prices Steadying

Through November, many managers of materials recycling facilities were reporting offers to purchase post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles in the 3 cents to 5 cents per pound range. This low price level had not occurred since early 2008.

By the end of November, the national average price range for PET beverage bottles and jars had finally leveled off between the 6.5-8 cents per pound range.

Through the first week of December, many PET end users were reporting some steadiness and even upward trending for this grade in some regions (see graph).

These prices are as reported on the Secondary Materials Pricing (SMP) Index. This pricing represents what is being paid for post-consumer recyclable plastic materials in a sorted, baled format, picked up at most major recycling centers.

Post-Consumer HDPE Prices Moving Upward

During the last four months, the national average price of post-consumer natural high-density polyethylene (HDPE) from curbside collection programs experienced a gradual 13-percent price increase, from 23.9 cents per pound in August to 27 cents per pound early December. This is in sharp contrast with the high level of 34.3 cents per pound, only five months ago in July (see graph).

Moving in parallel, the national average price of post-consumer colored HDPE experienced a dramatic 85-percent increase, from 14.56 cents per pound in August to the current 26.9 cents per pound in early December.

These prices are as reported on the Secondary Materials Pricing (SMP) Index. This pricing represents what is being paid for post-consumer recyclable plastic materials in a sorted, baled format, picked up at most major recycling centers.

Post-Consumer Paper Grades Drop

During the past 15 months, the national average price of many post-consumer paper grades dropped by 10 to 20 percent. Some lower grades started to trend upwards through this summer, then dropping again in late November.

In particular, PS-11 Corrugated Paper has experienced a true roller coaster ride during this period.

The national average price for PS-11 Corrugated Paper dropped 20 percent, from $97 per ton in September to $81 per ton this March. During the six-month period March to September, the national average price rose 12 percent, moving up to $91 per ton, then dropping again by 6 percent to the current $86 per ton (see graph).

These published prices are for post-consumer mill-size bales, FOB (freight on board) dealers’ plants, as reported on the Secondary Fiber Pricing (SFP) Index.

Robert Boulanger is currently president of Recycling Markets Limited, and director of the Commodity Pricing division. He has extensive experience in the operation and management of recycling plants, and is a long-time publisher in the recycling sector.

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