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Petrochemical glut makes new plastic cheaper

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By illuminem briefings 🌎

· 2 min read


illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on the Financial Times or enjoy below:

🗞️ Driving the news: A surge in petrochemical production in China and the US has led to a global oversupply of industrial chemicals used in plastics
• This has driven down the price of new material, making recycled alternatives less economical

🔭 The context: The oversupply is a result of increased production in China, driven by its economic policies, and in the US, fueled by the shale gas boom
• China contributed to 60% of the increase in petrochemical capacity in 2023

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: The lower cost of virgin plastics presents a challenge to reducing reliance on single-use plastics and achieving regulatory and environmental goals
• This situation hampers efforts to reduce plastic waste pollution and the adoption of recycled plastics

⏭️ What's next: The petrochemical industry faces pressure to close uncompetitive assets and cancel unnecessary projects to balance supply and demand

💬 One quote: "With this unprecedented supply of cheaper materials, how does recycling compete in that environment? It is a much tougher environment than we have seen previously," (James Wilson, senior analyst at ICIS)

📈 One stat: In the US, prices for virgin high-density polyethylene dropped from $1,674 a tonne in 2021 to $943 in 2023


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