Trends in Global Trade in Recyclable PE, Styrenics, PVC, PET, PP and Others

The volume of global trade in recyclable polymers in 2020 was less than half of what it was five years ago. The amount of recyclable polymer traded fell from 15.3 million tons in 2016, to 7.0 million tons in 2020. The rate of decline slowed markedly in 2019 and 2020

Recyclable polymers are post-consumer and post-industrial waste, parings and scrap of polymers that must be further processed before they can be used to make products. The green line in the graph below illustrates the downward trend in total trade volume and the slowdown in the rate of decline from 2019; the bars show the composition by polymer of the total for each year:

Recyclable PE, styrenics and PVC are traded by all countries under specific Harmonized System codes. In 2020, the volume of global trade in R-PE was 2.8 million tons; recyclable styrenics were 232,000 tons; recyclable PVC was 321,000 tons.

The largest category, however, is a mix of recyclable PET, PP, PC, PMMA and others, the volume of which was 3.6 million tons in 2020. Some countries do provide more granular data and based on these we estimate that roughly 50% of this category is R-PET and another 20%-25% is R-PP.

From International Trader Publications World Trade Analyses on recyclable polymers, continuously updated analysis of trade between countries and regions based on ITP’s database of 100 countries.