Global Trends in Recyclable Polyethylene

The volume of recyclable polyethylene traded globally declined from 2016-2019 but then gradually climbed and is projected to reach 3.2 million tons for 2022. Expanded trade within the Western European region plus rising imports into Eastern Europe from other regions were among the key factors.

Recyclable polyethylene (RPE) is post-consumer or post-industrial waste, parings and scrap that can be identified as polyethylene.

China’s decision to end imports of all recyclable polymers in 2017 sharply lowered global trade through 2019. Volume then climbed each year.

Trade within the Asia-Pacific region initially plummeted, then steadied at around 200,000 tons per year from 2019 on. Trade within the Western European ranged between 800,000 to 900,000 tons per year from 2016 through 2020, rose to 1.0 million tons in 2021 and is projected at 1.2 million tons in 2022. Trade within the Eastern European region of around 100,000 tons picked up to 200,000 tons in 2019 and steadied there through 2022.

Imports into the Asia-Pacific region from other regions initially dropped sharply, rose slightly in 2020, then continued to decline as other countries in the region also banned imports of these materials. Imports into Eastern Europe generally trended higher, to 700,000 tons projected for 2022, product sourced mainly from Western Europe and the Middle East.

From International Trader Publications Recyclable Polyethylene World Trade Analysis.