Metal recyclers in the UK have been told that a ‘tsunami’ of regulatory measures impacting their operations continues to grow as governments and international bodies frame policies to meet rising environmental and sustainability concerns.
The implications of such changes were a major theme of a speech by Susie Burrage, president of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), at its annual dinner in London.
During the previous 12 months, she said, BMRA officials had tackled tighter rules around exemptions for operating permits, fire prevention plans, hazardous waste streams and shredder residues.
Reviewing the international scene Ms Burrage spoke about working with EuRIC, the European recyclers’ body, in its ‘relentless lobbying’ against changes to the EU waste shipment regulations, warning of the ‘potentially disastrous effects’ on exports which currently includes ferrous and nonferrous metals.
‘Despite some notably positive adjustments to the European Commission’s Waste Shipment proposal, this far-reaching legislation continues to pose fundamental threats to European recyclers and Europe’s circular economy,’ she said.
‘Regrettably, EU lawmakers continue to push forward legislation that will incentivise the extraction of primary raw materials by adding more regulatory burdens on recyclers.’
Controversially, she added, recycled steel, copper and aluminium were being classified as waste even though the EU commission was adding them to its list of strategic and critical raw materials.
Scrap exports Proposals in the UK to limit exports of metal scrap were criticised by the BMRA chief executive James Kelly who told BMRA members that the domestic market did not have the capacity to process all the scrap generated in the country.
‘Even with the move to electric arc technology we will still be able to comfortably meet the future rise that demand will create,’ he pointed out.
‘Attempts to impede exports scrap ignore the substantial investment being made by the bigger scrap recyclers in particular to innovate and develop new specifications of scrap steel that will enable mills to use more scrap than was traditionally possible.’
Looking ahead, Ms Burrage said the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Metal, Stone & Heritage crime would soon be publishing a report on metal theft, highlighting a lack of data collection and poor enforcement of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
Additonally, BMRA would in 2024 be producing a net zero strategy to quantify the national metal recycling industry’s emissions and demonstrate how it can achieve the UK Government’s 2050 net zero target.
The president concluded: ‘We have demonstrated time and again that metal recycling is not just an integral part of the circular economy but a vital and vibrant sector that plays a pivotal role in conserving resources and reducing environmental impact. The collective power of our industry is a force to be reckoned with, and it will carry us through these unchartered waters.’