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Can balers and sorters achieve ‘green’ status?

Recyclers could benefit from financial incentives if their materials, machinery and equipment are recognised as ‘environmental goods’ contributing to environmental and climate protection goals.

Members of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) were told at their Convention in Dubai that the World Trade Organization (WTO) wants to compile a list of  ‘environmental goods’ and BIR is seeking recognition for those used in the recycling industry.

Alev Somer, BIR’s deputy director for environment and trade, said upcoming negotiations on an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) were ‘a golden opportunity for us’. She explained that the EGA initiative was first kicked off in 2014 but momentum had been lost after 2016. Efforts had now been relaunched by the WTO which wants to reduce trade barriers and limit tariffs for environmental goods.

‘We would like to be proactive in that discussion and any feedback you have would be very appreciated,’ she told the convention. ‘We would like to have the most recycled materials we can put into that list of environmental goods and we need to finalise that quite quickly.’

Meanwhile, implementing proposed changes to EU’s waste shipment regulations was questioned by Emmanuel Katrakis, secretary general of EuRIC, the umbrella organisation for European Recycling Industries. Revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 seeks to establish a centralised and harmonised digital system intra-EU shipments for reuse and/or recycling while tackling illegal shipments and, for shipments leaving the EU, improving the standards of recycling in importing countries.

A list would be drawn up of countries to which exports are allowed and receiving companies would have to be audited.

Katrakis argued it was the wrong time for such change: ‘We should slow down a bit and step back and fix the energy crisis before we go too fast and too full,’ he said. His concern was shared by BIR director general Arnaud Brunet who told the session: ‘BIR stands by both the exporters and the importers who need access to these shipments.’ 

Committee chairman Olivier François argued that quantifying the recycling industry‘s worth would help the media and public have a greater awareness of its role. Quoting the EU steel industry, he said ferrous recycling accounted for nearly 40% of the overall recycling sector, employed 300 000 people and was worth EUR 40 billion. Meanwhile, EU steel mills, considered a very large industry, were worth EUR 97 billion and employed 326 000.

‘Aside from a few experts inside our companies, nobody knows what we are doing and the economic weight of our industry is always underestimated,’ François said.

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