If China cuts off all imports of recycle plastics, as reported in the media as possibly occurring as soon as 2018, the impact on recycling industries in the US, Europe and Asia of the loss of a market for 7.3 million tons of recycle polymer would be huge.
Through May, 2017, China imported a total of 5.4 million tons of ethylene polymers, up 17% from the same period in 2016. Iran supplied 823,000 tons, or 15%, of the total, down 7%. A restriction on imports into China from Iran, will likely be made up by Saudi Arabia, US, Korea and UAE, among others.
North America is a relatively small exporter and importer of PE film and sheet, compared with Western Europe and Asia-Pacific.
The volume of polyethylene bags and sacks (also includes cones) traded globally in 2016 was nearly 4 million tons, up 4% from the prior year. Trade volume through May is up 7%.
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.
Brazil’s imports of ethylene polymers were up 13% through June, 2017 and imports of propylene polymers increased 5%. Brazil’s exports of these polymers were off slightly YTD.