New analysis of UK recovered plastics gives clarity to market situation

22nd March 2016

The latest data and in-depth information about UK plastics recycling and reprocessing is published today in an updated Plastics Market Situation Report. 

The report, compiled by the UK’s resource efficiency experts WRAP, includes detailed analysis of recovered plastic flows, prices and the sustainability of end markets, including the risks and opportunities.  It reviews trends past and present, and updates on data reported by the organisation since the previous Plastic Market Situation Report was published in 2011. 

Three key themes covered in the report include: 

Progress – significant improvements have been made by local authorities, the recycling industry and the wider supply chain towards achieving a circular economy for plastics. This includes a sharp increase in recycling of plastic packaging (up more than 50% since 2009*), the introduction of mixed plastic collections by the majority of local authorities (up to an estimated 67% in 2014/15) and light-weighting by brands and retailers. 

End Markets – the report gives a detailed assessment of the different plastics end markets in the UK and aboard, by polymer and by end user.  Despite concern from brands, manufacturers, local authorities and reprocessors, the report shows there is a wide range of end market sectors and applications potentially available for UK collected plastics. One example is Sicut Enterprises Ltd, which manufactures infrastructure products, including railway sleepers, from recycled waste plastics**. 

Plastic recyclers – plastic recyclers are particularly vulnerable to changes in market conditions due to their position in the middle of the supply chain; often feeling the squeeze from both sides, as well as higher costs and lower output prices. The decline in the price of oil has often been raised as a contributing factor behind difficulties in the UK plastics recycling sector. This report shows that this is not the whole story, with plastic prices often showing a weak relationship to oil.

Marcus Gover, Director at WRAP, said: “Much has been achieved since we published the second Plastics Market Situation Report 2011, but there is still more to be done with challenging targets looming and testing market conditions. 

“This report provides much needed clarity to some of the challenges the sector has faced recently as well as confidence on where to invest next.  Plastic recyclers don’t have to wait for oil prices to rise again. There are markets out there that will work that aren’t linked to oil prices. It’s about keeping costs low, not overreaching and identifying an end product to sell the reprocessed materials into.” 

Barry Turner, Director of Plastics and Flexible Packaging Group at the BPF, said: “Collecting information down to the granular and detailed level as presented in this report is always challenging but the estimates and actual data given never the less present an excellent summary of the market and progress made in extending plastic collection and recycling in the UK together with some of the future challenges and opportunities that exist. This will prove to be an important and enduring reference document.”

The Plastics Market Situation Report joins a series of reports produced by WRAP that examine current economic conditions and trends in the markets for recovered materials***.  

View the Plastics Market Situation report at  


Notes to editors:

* when the Plastics Market Situation Report reported on 2009 data

** Sicut has the exclusive rights to proven technology that enables the manufacture of infrastructure products from recycled waste plastics. Recent approvals for its Ecotrax® recycled plastic railway sleeper, the impending European ban on creosote and growing demand for alternatives to timber sleepers has led Sicut to establish a UK manufacturing base. Sicut anticipates that it will utilise over 25,000 tonnes of recycled plastic waste per annum by 2018/19 and that this will make a significant contribution to UK targets on sustainability, waste and landfill, as well as reducing the demand for imported hardwood. Unlike most of the output from the recycled plastic industry, Sicut’s products are not linked to oil price or virgin polymers. “This will not only deliver our customers’ expectations but also a much needed boost to the plastic recycling industry. The UK manufacture of Ecotrax® will bring inward investment, new advanced manufacturing, green jobs and local regeneration,” said William Mainwaring, CEO, Sicut Enterprises Ltd.

***other market situation reports cover metal, glass, paper, plastic, wood, organics and Chinese markets for recovered paper and textiles. View those here   

About WRAP: WRAP’s vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. It works in partnership with governments, businesses, trade bodies, local authorities, communities and individuals looking for practical advice to improve resource efficiency that delivers both economic and environmental benefits. @WRAP_UK

Our mission is to accelerate the move to a sustainable resource-efficient economy through: 

a. re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products,

b. re-thinking how we use and consume products, and

c. re-defining what is possible through re-use and recycling.

First established in 2000, WRAP is a registered charity.  WRAP works with UK governments and other funders to help deliver their policies on waste prevention and resource efficiency.  WRAP is a registered Charity No 1159512 and registered as a Company limited by guarantee in England & Wales No 4125764. Registered office at Second Floor, Blenheim Court, 19 George Street, Banbury, Oxon, OX16 5BH.

For further information contact:
Clare Usher, PR Officer
01295 819619