A Brutal Year and Slow Recovery

The Keynote Session at BIR World Recycling Convention Week 2020, held on October 13 during its week-long series of webinars was entitled “The global economy: How rocky will be the road to recovery?” In their response to this question, two eminent guest speakers warned that the road may be longer than many would like.

According to Stefan Schilbe, Chief Economist at HSBC Germany, most countries would probably fail to return to pre-COVID levels of activity until 2022. And the forecast from fellow guest speaker Prof. Philippe Chalmin was even more stark, saying “It’s not before 2022 – or even 2023 – that we will be back hopefully at the levels we were last year.”

Professor of Economic History at Paris-Dauphine University in France and author of the commodity-focused CyclOpe Yearbook, Prof. Chalmin described the events of recent months as “the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s”. All major countries had been returning negative growth figures – with the notable exception of China.

Of particular interest to the plastics recycling sector, Prof. Chalmin also anticipated a decline in oil prices from around US$ 40 per barrel to nearer US$ 30. And to plastics as well as paper recyclers, he offered the following comment, “On a long-term basis, unfortunately we will probably have to adapt to a world without China – and that’s a big problem.”

In a presentation entitled “Can ultra-expansive monetary and fiscal policies foster a recovery?”, Mr Schilbe foresaw a rebound but identified the downside risks to a recovery as being a prolonged pandemic; protectionism dragging down world trade growth; high levels of indebtedness as a result of, for example, job support schemes; and the undermining of confidence through bankruptcies and unemployment.

Earlier, BIR Director General Arnaud Brunet had opened the Keynote Session by describing 2020 as “an exceptionally turbulent if not brutal year” and warned the next six to 12 months were likely to be “very uncertain”. Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development were “pessimistic about the short-term and medium-term future”, he noted.

Join our Newsletter

Sign up to our weekly newsletters for updates on articles, interviews and events

Sign up