The volume of recycle polyethylene traded globally was up 12% through May, 2017, mainly on higher imports into China, followed by gains in other Asia-Pacific markets.
The 12% gain May 2017 YTD, however, was versus a relatively low May YTD 2016, which was primarily due to a slowdown in China.
China is the world’s largest importer of recycle polyethylene, volume from all sources in 2016 totaling 2.5 million tons, down 29% from 2015. Note that 2015 was a record year for imports, along with 2014.
Following a government crack down on contaminated polymer in 2013, China’s imports were down sharply through the first half of that year, but then rebounded to record levels, as high as 400,000 a month, and remained heavy through the second half of 2013, all of 2014 and most of 2015. Imports slowed markedly in 2016 and ranged between 175,000 and 225,000 tons per month through the year and into May 2017.
Three other Asia-Pacific markets are sizeable importers of recycle PE: Malaysia, Vietnam and India. In 2016, despite strong gains versus the prior year, volumes were far below those China imported. Malaysia imported 201,000 tons; Vietnam 119,000 tons; India, 58,000 tons. Imports into these markets were up strongly as of May 2017.
From International Trader Publications: Recycle Polyethylene World Trade Report