Progress for many packaging waste materials ahead of quarterly data release

The monthly packaging waste data has provided an insight into how the UK is performing against this year’s recycling targets ahead of the interim 2020 Q4 data, which will be released later this week.

The latest figures, released by the Environment Agency on the NPWD earlier this month, report on the amount of packaging waste that has been recycled or exported between 10 February and 10 March 2020.

Whilst the monthly figures provide an overall view of the progress towards the 2021 targets so far, the interim data from Q4 2020 will give a much better picture of individual grades, with the provisional carry over tonnage published.

Head of Packaging at Clarity Environmental, Martin Trigg-Knight, said the latest data pointed to some positive progress so far, “Considering uncertainties about the continued lockdown and impacts on Brexit, overall many of the grades have progressed relatively well in these first couple of months of the year. Plastic, in particular, has had a positive month and this is helping to keep the market stable. We look forward to reviewing the interim Q4 data later this week which will help to provide a more detailed picture of what we can expect for the markets in the year ahead, with carry over providing a starting point for materials.”

Paper reports positive production

Paper is looking like one of the strongest materials this month, building upon the tonnage in last month’s data. With another 286,299 tonnes reported, and carry over from 2020 expected to be strong, this will likely put the material ahead of where it needs to be when compared against last year’s targets as an estimate. These figures are reflected in the paper packaging recovery note market, with a slightly stagnant start to the year and lower prices.

Glass remelt impacted by lockdown

Glass other is by far the stronger looking grade between the two glass categories. This material has reported higher tonnage in comparison to the figures for February last year, with an additional 30,000 tonnes reported. In comparison, glass remelt remains behind the tonnage we would expect, reporting similar production figures to the previous month. With production at 77,000 tonnes, the overall total for this year has been taken to just over 147,000. With the UK in lockdown and the hospitality sector remaining closed, it is unsurprising to see glass remelt falling behind but the overall position will be much clearer once carry over is released.

Aluminium looks in line with tonnages reported this time last year, with production at 11,467 tonnes in February. With carryover yet to be confirmed, the material may be close to a month ahead of targets once this is established. The position of the grade is reflected in the current lower prices for aluminium in comparison to the past couple of years.

Steel is also performing at a similar rate to this time in 2020, with consistent volumes reported over January and February. Without carry over, steel could be slightly behind target.

Plastic has performed much better this month, reporting 87,381 tonnes compared to 54,527 in January. This is a strong month in general for plastic. Although this grade usually experiences more fluctuations in price than other materials, it has had a reasonably stable start to 2021.

Slow start for Wood

Wood has had a slow start to the year, with lockdown and social distancing measures affecting the construction industry amongst other issues. February did, however, report over double the production levels of January, with 34,848 tonnes. This has brought the overall amount for 2021 to 47,240. Although behind where it should be, wood is likely to pick up in the coming months as restrictions ease and we move into the busier seasons for the construction sector.

"Plastic, in particular, has had a positive month and this is helping to keep the market stable. We look forward to reviewing the interim Q4 data later this week which will help to provide a more detailed picture of what we can expect for the markets in the year ahead, with carry over providing a starting point for materials."

Martin Trigg-Knight, Head of Packaging

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