After a brief spike in March following the Chinese New Year, imports into China trended downward, a different trend than had been seen over the last three years. Also unusual were exports out of China, which began rising toward the end of 2020 and soared to unprecedented levels in the first half of 2021.
US exports of recyclable polymers fell from nearly 2 million tons in 2016 to 624,000 tons in 2020. The rate of decline slowed from 2018 through 2020 but new US government initiatives to cut greenhouse gases and reduce plastic waste may have an impact.
Imports of commodity polymers totaled 6.8 million tons in the first quarter, down 5% from the same period, pre-Covid-19, in 2019. Exports of a basket of fabricated plastic products were down 3%, to 2.6 million tons.
The US shipped 406,000 tons of recycle polymers through July, 2019, down 46% from the same period in the prior year. China’s total ban on imports of recycle polymers as of 2018 was a key factor in the decline. Further declines in US exports are expected as India has announced it will also ban all recycle polymer imports.
In 2014, global trade in polyethylene sheets and other flat products (film, foil and strip) totaled 4.4 million tons, up 2% from the prior year. Trade volume through June of 2015 was up 3% from the same period in the prior year, based on reporting countries. Global trade volume is an indicator of global demand.