C2 Background
No end in sight: prices for plastics rise to historic highs

09.06.2021 The unbroken price increase and the continuing shortage of many plastics continue to put pressure on manufacturers of plastic packaging. A recent fifth flash survey among the members of the German plastic packaging association IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen at the end of May shows how extremely tense the situation in the industry continues to be.

Plastic prices continue to rise.
© Photo: IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen
Plastic prices continue to rise.

According to the companies, the prices of many standard plastics have increased by more than 70% since the beginning of the year. In addition, transport and logistics costs have risen sharply. In addition, the shortage of important plastics continues to cause packaging manufacturers considerable problems in production.

The raw material shortages continue to affect all plastics, although overall there are signs of a slight easing. 67% of the participating companies report a currently poor to very poor supply situation – a month ago it was just under 80%. As in the previous month, eight out of ten plastic packaging manufacturers had to cut their production due to the shortage of raw materials, one in five even to a considerable to very great extent.

Recycled materials also affected by considerable price increases

By the end of May, LLDPE and LDPE had recorded the highest price increases with +75% and +74% respectively, followed by PP, HDPE, PE, PA, PS, PVC and EPS (each between +67% and +71%). In some cases, the mark-ups are significantly higher than these average values. Prices for recycled plastics also continue to rise: Since the beginning of the year, prices for recycled PP, LDPE and PS have risen by more than 50%. Recycled PET is on average 43% more expensive than five months ago.

"The situation in the industry is and remains extremely tense," is how IK CEO Dr Martin Engelmann sums up the current situation. The historic high prices for many standard plastics have largely decoupled from the price development for petrochemical raw materials.

More transparency demanded in cases of force majeure

"The situation is further aggravated by the continuing very high number of force majeure cases filed by plastics manufacturers," Engelmann said. As before, two out of three packaging manufacturers are affected by one or more plant failures of their suppliers. Compared to the previous month, this number has even increased. He renews his demand for more transparency and points to an information letter for IK members on the legal requirements for a case of force majeure: "Only if the suppliers describe the reasons for the plant failure in a comprehensible and detailed manner can you expect understanding on the customer side," says Engelmann.