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Growing fears of global recycling infrastructure ‘collapse’

Increased scrap trade restrictions continuing to cause headaches among metal recyclers worldwide has been highlighted at the latest BIR Convention.   

For example, import guidelines drafted by Malaysia – if adopted – would undermine the country’s imports of, among other grades, insulated copper wire, Zorba, stainless steel scrap and cast iron scrap, warned Eric Tan, founder and president of the Malaysia Non-Ferrous Metals Association (MNMA).

As well as setting minimum standards for metal content and maximum contamination rates that would rule out most current imports, the guidelines also call for both pre- and post-shipment inspections – a level of control that was not even required by the Basel Convention for hazardous wastes, Tan pointed out. ‘We do not know why there is a need to have both inspections, he said.

MNMA was negotiating with the authorities over this proposed tightening of import controls and remained hopeful of a positive outcome, according to Tan. His organisation’s aim, he said, was to achieve a level playing field and prevent Malaysia from being put at a disadvantage to other countries in South East Asia.

According to Paul Coyte of Hayes Metals in New Zealand, the rewriting of specifications by individual countries ‘just complicates things’. Globally respected specs had already been established and materials ‘should move freely on that basis’, he stressed.

Bayram: exports remain crucial

Murat Bayram of European Metal Recycling spoke of increasing moves within Europe towards stemming outward flows of materials generated by the recycling industry. ‘Export restrictions, if put into place, would result in the collapse of the current, strong ‘green’ recycling infrastructure that relies on unhampered access to end markets all over the world,’ he warned. ‘If we really want to push recycling around the world exports were, are and will stay important.’ The Circular Economy did not stop at the European border, Bayram added.

India’s scrap appetite

Despite a shortage of good-quality scrap in India, the country’s government still found this trade to be ‘in some way undesirable’, lamented Dhawal Shah of Metco Marketing. Scrap imports were of enormous benefit to India on a number of levels, including environmentally, he said, so ‘it is time we changed the narrative’.

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