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Major UK report recognises ‘vital’ role of exports

United Kingdom – A leading UK recycling figure has welcomed a report from the all-party Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) for acknowledging ‘the vital role exports play in helping the UK extract greater value from its waste’.

The APSRG, the leading forum informing the debate between parliamentarians, business leaders and the sustainable resource community with the aim of raising awareness of resource issues within the country’s parliament, commissioned the report entitled ‘Exporting opportunity: putting UK waste to work at home and abroad’ in which the overseas shipment of waste is termed ‘an incredibly complex and varied topic, due to the range of different drivers affecting each different waste stream that is exported’.

Exports ‘are a by-product of the UK’s position in a global marketplace’, it continues, ‘and in many cases represent a valuable transaction to the UK economy, boosting the balance of payments and supplying manufacturing economies overseas, which in turn provide the UK with valuable products’.

‘Global and intertwinted’

Ian Hetherington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), says: ‘This nuanced approach to the waste export debate is refreshing as it recognises there is no single answer and that a range of different solutions are required depending on the material stream.’ The report recognises that ‘our markets are global and intertwined’ and that ‘we cannot base the export debate solely on the needs of the UK’.

Exports are vital to the UK’s £5 billion (US$ 8.2 billion) metals recycling industry as around 60% of the recycled material processed in the UK goes abroad, the BMRA points out. In particular, the BMRA welcomes the report’s recommendation that the Environment Agency should, with input from industry, conduct a review of end-of-waste approaches across the UK ‘to help improve dialogue with industry and maximise the benefit that end-of-waste offers’.

This is in recognition of the fact that end-of-waste criteria for metals were developed in the spirit of creating a straightforward means of declassifying scrap metal waste, and in order to allow the industry to access valuable overseas markets through exporting scrap as a secondary raw material.

Domestic ambition

The metals recycling body also applauds the APSRG recommendation that the UK’s Treasury, its Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and its Department for Business, Innovation & Skills should consider implementing fiscal instruments – for example, raising the capital allowances threshold – to ‘support businesses developing infrastructure in line with the ambition of increasing domestic capacity for the recycling and reprocessing of different materials streams’.

The APSRG inquiry leading to the report was chaired by Caroline Spelman MP and supported by the BMRA, Closed Loop Recycling, DS Smith Recycling and SITA UK.

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