PET January 2020 Price Review

After several months of falling prices, Western European PET contract prices evidently bottomed out in December 2019. Prices for freely-traded and large volumes remained at the previous level of just above €800/t ($887), while deliveries linked to the paraxylene reference similarly resulted in a rollover. 

For the medium-to-small volumes subject to regular monthly transactions that PIE reports on, prices at the lower end of the range slid by around €50/t ($55). The very small volumes and specified grades at the upper end of the range remained mostly stable, by contrast, since purchasers generally had to have recourse to goods from European production lines running at a reduced output. 

Prices stabilised on account of more expensive imports, among other things. The new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) provisions for global shipping that came into force in January 2020 are already making themselves felt here. The upcoming switch to low-sulphur fuels will push up freight costs by about €30/t ($33). 

In the meantime, changes have evidently come about in the market structure. The price spans for the different trading models have broadened considerably. Instead of the usual range of €100-150/t ($110-166) to date, the difference between the lowest and highest prices is now more likely to be €250/t ($277) or more. 

In addition, prices of food-grade rPET have been higher than those for primary PET grades for a good year now. The environmental debate on plastics is clearly reflected in the continuing demand for food-grade recycled plastics, which is starting to replace the dependence on primary products. While no major momentum is in sight to boost demand for 2020, and warehouses will thus remain well-filled, slight price changes may come about. The start of the year is set to be quiet.