Although virgin polyethylene production capacity is similar in both regions, Western Europe exported 1.4 million tons of recycle polyethylene in 2017, compared with 0.6 million tons exported by from North America.
Shipments in 2017 from both regions were mainly to Asia-Pacific, although 220,000 tons of its total was shipped by Western Europe to Eastern Europe. Exports from both Western Europe and North America declined versus 2016, by 15% and 9%, respectively.
As of January 2018, China’s imports of R-PE have virtually disappeared. Although R-PE imports into Vietnam, Malaysia, Turkey and other countries have been rising, their imports to date are much smaller than China’s. Because of the previous size of Western Europe’s R-PE exports, that region will likely be impacted by the loss of the Chinese market to a greater degree than will North America.
From International Trader Publications’ Recycle Polyethylene World Trade Review – a continuously updated on line analysis of trade trends between countries and regions, based on latest import/export statistics from 46 countries.
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.
In 2014, global trade in recycle polyethylene totaled 6.6 million tons, up 23%. Trade volume through June of 2015 was 2.6 million tons, down 13%, based on reporting countries. Global trade volume is an indicator of global demand.