A brighter future is on the horizon for non-ferrous metal recyclers despite the challenges currently being faced across the sector, the Bureau of International Recycling has been told.
The optimism at BIR’s latest convention in Abu Dhabi came from Joe Pickard, chief economist and director of commodities at ISRI, the US recyclers’ organisation, who said: ‘When I talk to our ISRI members, there’s not a single one who says 2023 has been a better year than 2022, or 2021 for that matter.’
‘Going forward, though, we have some tremendous opportunities to grow our businesses. Even though we are experiencing some short-term challenges, the medium-to-longer-term prospect is incredibly bright for our industry.’
Even so, Pickard cautioned that China’s property sector crisis could deepen with global consequences for commodity exporters. The International Monetary Fund had revised down its growth forecasts for China and JP Morgan and S&P Global said manufacturing globally remained ‘the main drag on overall economic growth’.
Looking to the US, the economist said the tight labour market, with more job openings than people unemployed, was a major challenge for US recyclers looking to hire and retain. It also strengthened the arm of trades unions and continuing industrial action in the automotive sector, hitting vehicle output, had ‘extremely strong ramifications for non-ferrous demand in the US’.
Markets were changing, he argued. With additional recycling capacity coming on stream in the US, the trend for lower proportions of non-ferrous exports was likely to continue. China’s drive to cut low-quality scrap imports meant that the US was now exporting higher quality non-ferrous consignments, such as Bare Bright and Copper 1 and 2.
India had become the second-biggest market for all recycled commodities combined and the country offered potential for even greater trade.
Pickard was encouraged by the number of new facilities coming on stream in the US to process secondary metals, notably copper and aluminium. Aluminium Dynamics and Novelis had announced major multi-billion projects which ‘should tighten market balances going forward’.
Another speaker, Deepesh Goyal, chief commercial officer of Fujairah Gold in the UAE, said that said five years ago his group was processing only primary metals and ‘we didn’t want to get into secondary’.
‘But because of the ESG goals and other commitments, we primary producers feel we cannot leave this low hanging fruit if we are to reduce our carbon footprints.’
Paul Coyte, the new president of the non-ferrous metals division was upbeat during his opening comments. ‘We are the traders, the processors, consumers and the manufacturers that are collectively making the world a better place. What we receive as raw material and reuse is contributing to millions of tonnes of net carbon emissions savings every year and it is something we should celebrate.’