​Citi identifies winners and losers of plastic packaging backlash

A sustained backlash against plastic packaging might benefit aluminum container makers while hurting chemical producers such as Dow Inc., according to Citigroup Inc.

A sustained backlash against plastic packaging might benefit aluminum container makers such as Ball Corp. and scrap metal recyclers including Nucor Corp., while hurting chemical producers such as Dow Inc., according to Citigroup Inc.

In a note examining the potential impact on stocks of changes to recycling methods, Citigroup analysts said the likes of Broomfield, Colorado-based Ball and Philadelphia-based Crown Holdings Inc. could get a boost as consumers look to move away from harder-to-recycle plastic.

As makers of ethylene and plastics, the likes of Dow and LyondellBasell Industries NV may see downside risk from tighter recycling regulations, while plastic packagers such as Berry Global Group Inc. and Sealed Air Corp. could face headwinds if recycling rates remain low, the analysts wrote.

“Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, and generally collected and recycled at a higher rate than PET bottles,” the Citigroup analysts wrote. Global aluminum producer Alcoa Corp. could benefit from increased use of the metal, though faces challenges such as the heavy carbon footprint of production and the practical features of using a can, they said.

Growing pollution from plastics has rapidly become an urgent environmental crisis , with more than 60 countries having introduced bans or taxes aimed at reducing waste.

With the likes of Berry Global and Sealed Air having joined the Alliance to End Plastic Waste , plastic’s sustainability message “could be vastly improved,” according to Citigroup. But if current recycling systems stay as they are, the metal packagers could take back share, they said.

The metals and mining sector could also be impacted if governments start to demand lower carbon emissions, Citigroup said. Here, mini-steel producers which recycle scrap metal, such as Nucor, Steel Dynamics Inc. and Commercial Metals Co. may have an advantage over integrated mills, the analysts wrote.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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