Recycled plastic ‘now more costly than new polymers’

A new report suggests the battle against plastic pollution may not yet be won, as it warns economic pressures could drive manufacturers to use less environmentally-friendly options

The Big Zero report

Recycled plastic is now more costly than new polymers.

That’s the suggestion from new research published by S&P Global Platts, which suggests the battle against plastic pollution may not yet be won, as it warns economic pressures could drive manufacturers to use less environmentally-friendly options.

It notes recycled plastic now costs £57 more a tonne compared with newly-made plastic and highlights this could pit “consumer demand against economic realities”, leading to sustainably-focused legislation and industry initiatives being undermined by the market.

While it says recycled plastic flake prices have traditionally been cheaper than virgin plastic options, making the product economically viable and easy to market, the report points out that this has changed in 2019, with greener options now costing more.

S&P Global Platts stresses this could cost manufacturers across Europe an extra £200 a year and predicts the market will still continue to grow as EU policies push businesses towards producing higher proportions of recycled packaging.

The report quotes an industrial recycler which said: “It comes down to whether the consumer is really willing to pay substantially more for a 100% recycled bottle or not.

“There comes a price point at which it is not economically sustainable.”

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