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Beware the hangers-on, says BIR head

The dangers of doing deals with unregistered traders, particularly on the fringes of association conferences, have been set out by BIR president Tom Bird.

The warning came as Bird kicked off the world recycling organisation’s Autumn convention, staged online for the first time because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The president said BIR had been contacted by a number of members in recent months reporting ‘pretty unpleasant experiences’.

‘They’ve obviously been let down with materials that haven’t been paid for or have been sat upon, all sorts of horror stories,’ he said. ‘The common denominator appears to be that members met these companies at BIR conferences and thought they were in BIR. In actual fact they met them in the lobby and they weren’t registered.

‘It’s the same old story. All of the cases, without exception, have been as a result of that and there have been some big numbers involved.’ 

BIR logo but no BIR member

Bird said some of these unregistered traders had been using the BIR logo on letterheads and business cards even though weren’t members. ‘We were asked to get involved in arbitration but of course we can’t because they are not BIR members. All we can do is advise and I would say to BIR members: be very careful who you are dealing with at conferences, particularly people who are not registered’.

Be careful!  

He was supported by fellow speaker, Susie Burrage, president of the UK-based British Metals Recycling Association and managing director of Recycling Products. ‘When it comes to meeting people in the lobby outside the convention – if they are not willing to pay the minimum rate of EUR 2 100 to take part then really do you want to entrust them with thousands and thousands pounds-worth of metal? If you are sending them a container of copper halfway round the world, possibly EUR 100 000, and yet they won’t pay that EUR 2 100 then you have to think very carefully.’ 

Staying focussed

Bird struck a brighter note about BIR representing its members as they were coping with the worldwide economic decline.

‘Regulators are continuing to regulate. At times like this when our attention is elsewhere it’s important we keep our focus on the regulations. At the same time we must communicate with national associations because information is king.’

He quoted the organisation’s role in tackling restrictions and other regulations imposed this year at Indian ports. BIR had been in regular contact with the authorities, shipping lines and even written to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

‘All these things are happening while the chaos is going on and we have to remain focussed. A silver lining is that it shows more clearly the work BIR does elsewhere and why it’s important to be a member.’ 

Trade war concerns

In response to a question from Recycling International about BIR maintaining a balance between the US and China during their recent trade war, Bird said the organisation was primarily concerned with ensuring free trade and it always took a consistent line. ‘Trade barriers and trade wars do not benefit anybody. It can be very difficult to trade between the Chinese and the Americans because they are two very different cultures.’ But he highlighted BIR’s work with both ISRI (in the US) and CMRA (China) as ‘showing the best side’ of its role.

Moderator Michael Lion said this international work underscored the value of BIR because national associations were understandably representing the interest of their members. ‘BIR doesn’t represent any faction and is based on pragmatism,’ he added.

The young ones

Bird also emphasised the need for younger executives to be involved in the organisation. ‘It’s good for their company because it puts the company at the forefront and it brings the execs closer to the issues at hand. We need their input and their experience from their countries when we approach those subjects and issues facing the recycling industry.’

Reviewing the general economic situation, Bird said the current ‘stop-start’ economic situation caused by the pandemic was damaging to many industries. ‘The longer it goes on, the longer the problem will be there for us to solve.‘

Tightening the belt

Asked by Lion how the industry would evolve post-Covid, the president responded it was a tough question. ‘It will affect everyone. The main pressure is financial pressure at the end of the day. Those businesses carrying large amounts of debt will find it the toughest. In any sector, not just ours.’

‘But ours is a resilient industry,’ he told Lion. ‘You and I were at Sims at the time of the 2008 recession and it was carnage; but we are one of those industries that tightens the belt and gets through it.’

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