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Understanding the market

The plastics recycling industry trades at an international level. Global demand significantly outweighs supply. Collected bottles can either be sold once sorted by polymer type (which commands the highest value) or can simply be marketed as a mix of all types of bottle. The key factors for maximising income are: quantity of non-bottle contamination, tonnage commitment and tonnage shipped per load (a function of bale density and loading arrangements).

The average sales value of sorted baled plastic bottles (PET & HDPE) over the last five year period has been £250/tonne. Councils or contractors supplying good quality, baled bottles will be able to secure commitments to purchase from recyclers. Typically these can be 1-5 year contractual commitments to purchase with staged price reviews.

Prices for collected plastic packaging are primarily a function of both virgin pricing and PRN pricing (for an explanation of PRNs click here.There are a number of publicly available price indicators and analysis tools available to help assess pricing trends in the markets for plastics and plastics PRNs.

The following websites offer free information that may be helpful to interpret price movements:

There are a wide range of publications in the plastics industry that highlight virgin price trends. These include Plastics and Rubber Weekly magazine ( , PLATTS and PIE ( To access these services you must subscribe to the publications.

Buying and selling recyclable plastics

Demand for recyclable plastics, particularly post-consumer bottles and manufacture scrap, is high. The plastics market is a global market, enabling UK-based organisations to take advantage of high demand from the Far East and Asia. 

Plastic bottles are the main post-consumer source of plastics. They can be recycled using a variety of technologies and be used to produce high-quality end products ranging from pipes to fleece jackets. Feedstock technologies also allow post-consumer plastics to be broken down into their component parts and used to produce new plastics. 

Buyers of used plastics exist across the UK. If you are looking to sell post-consumer plastic bottles, contact Recoup. If you have other plastic waste, visit the Reprocessor Locator to find a reprocessor who may purchase your material.

Where can I sell plastic bottles?

There are many companies around the UK who will purchase collected post-consumer plastic bottles. When selling plastic bottles, it is important to ensure that the material is handled, baled and stored correctly. By following Recoup's guidance notes you can maximise the value of your material through effective management and by minimising contamination.Even if you do not sell the material directly, use due diligence to make sure that your agent or contractor is offering the best price, and processes the material to the quality levels specified by reprocessors. The most common contamination in plastic bottles is other plastics.To search for a reprocessor click here.

How do I prepare bottles for sale?

Preparing collected plastic bottles for sale to the recycling markets is easy. You can sell plastic bottles either as unsorted mixed plastic bottles, or separated by polymer type. Bottles will almost always need to be baled, although loose bottles can sometimes be accepted.

When preparing plastic bottles for market you can:

  • Maximise the value of your collected bottles, whether they are mixed or separated by minimising contamination caused by unacceptable material
  • Achieve the best prices for your material with minimum transport costs by optimising your bale density
  • Maintain the value of your bales through effective strapping to avoid collapse and loss of revenue
  • Maximise the number of bales transported per load to help reduce transport costs and increase the value of each load
  • Effectively store your bales to prevent damage that could reduce the value of your material.

Flakes & Compounds

When plastics are recycled, they are often first chopped into flakes as part of the process. This is particularly relevant to the recycling of post-consumer plastic bottles as the chopping stage is accompanied by washing, which removes any traces of labels, lids and unwanted materials. These flakes can then be used as the raw material for end products.

Chopped waste plastics can then be turned into pellets and coloured through melting processes. The end product is small, lentil-sized pellets that can then be used in the manufacture of new products.

There are a variety of companies around the UK who carry out the flaking and pelletising processes. Some of these produce plastic compounds that can in turn be used in product manufacture.

WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) have a range of information regarding market opportunities for plastics, including flakes. For further information visit WRAP.

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