Market graph iconThis story has been corrected.

The commodities market downturn continues to punish MRFs, with plummeting prices for OCC, mixed paper, PET and HDPE this month.

For OCC , the current price isn’t horrible by historical standards, but the speed at which values have nose-dived over the past couple of months is notable. Other recyclables have fallen far below the four-year average. 

The national average price for corrugated containers (PS 11) is down 32%, from an average $114 per ton last month to a current average $78 per ton. This compares with $169 per ton this time last year. 

According to historical data from, the OCC price has averaged about $82 over the past four years, so the current price isn’t much lower than recent history. But the latest drop has been remarkably fast – it has fallen over 40% in just two months this summer.

Meanwhile, mixed paper (PS 54) also took a dive, falling from $44 per ton last month to $18 per ton this month, or a drop of 59%. This compares with $96 per ton this time last year. 

The current price is still well above the doldrums of late 2019 and early 2020, when mixed paper had negative values, but it’s still the lowest it’s been in two years. The average over the past four years was $29 per ton. 

Sorted residential papers (PS 56) are down 17%, from $99 to $82 per ton. One year ago, the price was $118 per ton.

The only good fiber news was in sorted office papers (PS 37), which remain steady at $241 per ton this month, compared with an average $164 one year ago.

In plastics, the numbers are equally dismal. 

The national average price of PET beverage bottles and jars dropped again this month, by 27%. The price is now averaging 7.53 cents per pound, compared with 10.31 cents per pound this time last month. Some regions are still trading as high as 10.00 cents per pound, with most offering as low as 6.00 cents. PET was trading at 25.31 cents one year ago.

By the standards of recent history, the PET price is bad. Past data shows that, over the past four years, the price has averaged 15.70 cents per pound. That means the current price is less than half the four-year average price. 

The national average price of natural high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is also down. The price is now around 39.50 cents per pound, compared with 45.50 cents last month, or a drop of about 13%. The price was 108.44 cents this time last year, when it reached a record high. 

The current price is notably below the last-four-years average of 53.53 cents per pound. 

Color HDPE has fallen even more dramatically and is now trading at 6.16 cents per pound. It was 11.88 cents this time last month, meaning it has fallen by 48% in just a month. Color HDPE averaged 58 cents one year ago. The latest numbers aren’t good by historical standards either. Over the past four years, bales of color HDPE have averaged 20.25 cents per pound, over three times the current price. 

A similar fall in plastics pricing occurred with polypropylene (PP), which is also down by 48%. This grade is now trading for about 8.31 cents per pound, down from 16.13 cents last month. PP was 32.91 cents one year ago.

On a historical basis, the current pricing is exceptionally bad. Over the past three years, the PP bale price has averaged 17.85 cents per pound, or nearly three times the current value. 

Lastly for plastics, films have also seen notable price drops. 

The national average price of Grade A film is now 20.75 cents per pound, compared with 22.69 last month and 20.38 cents one year ago. 

Grade B film is 7.00 cents, compared with 8.31 last month. 

Grade C film is now averaging 0.94 cents per pound, down from 1.13 cents last month. 

There was a glimmer of good news for MRFs: Curbside metals prices held steady. 

Aluminum cans are selling for about 73.31 cents per pound, compared to 74.63 cents last month, or a drop of less than 2%. This material was trading at an average 78.66 cents per pound this time last year.

Finally, baled steel cans remain steady this month at an average $188 per ton. The price was $249 per ton one year ago.

This story has been corrected.  The story incorrectly stated the September price for polypropylene was 6.16 cents per pound. The story has been updated with the correct number, 8.31 cents.

These prices are as reported on the Secondary Materials Pricing (SMP) Index. This pricing represents what is being paid for post-consumer recyclable materials in a sorted, baled format, picked up at most major recycling centers. 

For a free trial to SMP’s Online Post-Consumer Pricing Index, visit the Recycling Markets website. You can also contact Christina Boulanger-Bosley at [email protected] or 330-956-8911.