German waste plastics market squeezed by cheap primary plastics and weak demand

The waste plastics market situation remains difficult.
07.10.2020 − 

In September, the situation on the waste plastics market in Germany remained extremely difficult and forward visibility was low. Demand did not pick up noticeably after the end of the summer holiday season. The hoped-for autumn upswing did not materialise, say recyclers. However, reports can vary from company to company and there are many "unique situations,” EUWID was told. Some recyclers are still implementing short-time work, while others are operating at a level they described as "not entirely depressing".

Some recycling firms are likely to be on the brink of collapse by the end of the year, according to industry experts. Companies are therefore also critical of policymakers as they feel they are not receiving any support from the government. They point out that Germany’s revised circular economy law does not even include the possibility for delegated legislation to establish minimum recycled content requirements. The economic situation now is considerably worse than the recession triggered by the financial markets crisis of 2008, EUWID was told. "I have never seen anything like it in my almost-30-year career," said one major recycler.

Quality and volume arguments merely "excuses"

In an interview published on the website of bvse, the German association representing mainly small and medium-sized players in the recycling and waste management sector, two of the association's officers were critical of the lack of action from the plastics and plastics converting industries. Dirk Textor, head of the association’s plastics recycling division, said that even in the current precarious situation these industries were doing nothing to fundamentally change their behaviour aside from declarations of intent. Herbert Snell, vice-president of bvse, said that demand for recyclate collapsed and has not yet significantly recovered because the plastics converting industry is mainly using lower priced primary plastics as inputs. The coronavirus crisis intensified this undesirable development, he added.

Mr Snell described claims by plastics converters that the quantity and quality of available recyclate are insufficient as "excuses". The rate of recyclate use was falling because it was more profitable for plastics converters to use primary plastics, he said. "Adequate volumes of recyclate are available – and not only in the current situation," he added.

The bvse official also rejected the quality argument, saying there were already good options for using the existing grades but the plastics converting industry, product managers and retailers must make more of an effort to utilise them.

The full report on the waste plastics recycling market in Germany will appear in the next print and e-paper issues of EUWID Recycling & Waste Management (21/2020) out on 14 October. Online subscribers can access the report immediately here: Waste plastics Germany

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