Skip to main content

Coronavirus update: Largely business as usual, says BIR

Scrap trading operations appear to have been largely unaffected thus far by the spread of the coronavirus, says the Bureau of International Recycling in response to questions from Recycling International.


The information provided by BIR is based on input from the world recycling organisation’s various commodity divisions and committees.

‘From the non-ferrous metals perspective, business with Asian markets slowed in February but there has been no significant disruption to movements of material’, says BIR. ‘On the plus side, some Chinese provinces are gradually reopening; however, migrant workers have not been able as yet to return to their previous posts because of provincial border controls.

On the US/Mexican border, there has been ‘no observable’ impact on the availability of, and demand for, non-ferrous scrap; even shipments to Asia have not been affected. As for metal coming from Asia, some minor delays have been experienced owing to shipping lines altering their sailing schedules ‘in response to some port disruption claimed to be related to the coronavirus’.


Meanwhile, BIR is receiving reports from manufacturing operations on the US/Mexican border that are confronted with a slowdown in their activities owing to a shortage of parts and components that would normally be sourced from China. ‘The extent to which this might affect scrap generation and demand has yet to be seen’.

Some sellers of ferrous scrap are understood to have encountered issues on the container side, and now there are more restrictions on bulk vessels with regard to 14-day health certificates before a ship can berth.

As for e-scrap, no problems have been reported to date in terms of the virus affecting trade or the loading of ships. However, business travel – for meetings with suppliers and clients, etc – has been suspended in many instances.


To date, the plastics industry in Europe has experienced only a few problems relating to the coronavirus, according to BIR. ‘But the market is seeing more and more uncertainty. Many trade shows and other events have already been cancelled and the situation will worsen if companies are forced to close their doors owing to infections.’

The tyre and rubber recycling sector also reports the gradual reopening of China while emphasizing that inland logistics – from ports to yards on the country’s mainland – are still very much affected by the virus. On a positive note, most previously-stuck containers have benefitted from the waiving of demurrage and detention charges. Clients are very slow to place new orders in China whereas the situation in South and South East Asia is more or less normal. In Europe, meanwhile, supply and demand for either plastics or rubber have not really been affected so far.

While no impact has been reported to date on the textiles recycling industry, market participants fear that collection volumes will decrease if the situation does not improve. Also, there is a risk of a decline in demand from Africa and other markets.

Would you like to share any interesting developments or article ideas with us? Don't hesitate to contact us.

You might find this interesting too

UK set to support Ukrainian steel imports
Vodafone backs e-cycling in Africa one phone at a time

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe now and get a full year for just €169 (normal rate is €225) Subscribe