The growing world market oil price and new EU requirements have led to a price rally on the waste market. Even though bottles and packages have become more valuable as raw material, there is little hope people are looking at more money for recycling.
Empty packagings have long since become more than just garbage and are increasingly a raw material the price of which is moving steadily upwards. Kaupo Karba, head of Estonian producer responsibility organization Pandipakend that handles packages recycling, said that the market has seen a price rally in the past year, with the price of empty plastic bottles doubling. New EU requirements about to enter into force also have a hand in the price increase.
"The European Union requires 25 percent of packages to be made of recycled plastics by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030," Karba said.
Demand has also grown as a result of several major producers' decision to switch to 100 percent recycled plastic packagings, as Coca-Cola have done in Norway. This could lead to a shortage of recyclable plastic.
"Major brands cornering the market could leave smaller companies empty-handed. Another part of the problem could be that plastic packagings collection is around 40-45 percent in Europe, while it is 90 percent in Estonia," Karba said.
Rainer Pesti, head of business development for Estonian waste handler Ragn Sells, said that a general raw material crisis makes using existing materials appealing.
"We have seen metal buying up prices grow in the wake of a world market price advance. Specific electronic waste is also increasingly in demand, as is paper and cardboard," Pesti offered.
When it comes to plastics, the higher the world market oil price, the higher the prices of plastics made using oil chemistry, he suggested. This is making sorting less valuable plastic increasingly profitable.
"Ragn Sells is investing in robots, infrared sensors, artificial intelligence to help single out new types of plastics from collected packagings. This is possible because of higher material prices," Pesti said.
However, if waste is becoming more valuable, why are people still required to sort it and even pay for its removal?
"The price of oil would have to be in the $200 per barrel region, or a liter of gasoline to cost €3, for separating material from mixed household waste to make sense financially. Having your garbage collected for free is not really worth paying €3 per liter at the pump," Pesti remarked.
Editor: Marcus Turovski