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Slow new year start for non-ferrous trade

Scrap companies are reporting slower-than-normal business conditions despite the generally upward trajectory of the LME, according to the latest BIR Non-Ferrous Mirror.

Dhawal Shah of Metco Ventures in India and president of BIR’s non-ferrous metals division says that ‘flipping over the calendar from 2022 to 2023’ has not eliminated the problems and challenges the industry faced towards the end of last year.

‘To name just a few, energy prices have edged from their peak but bills remain high and gas/electricity availability is not always as we would wish it to be,’ he writes. ‘Inflation remains a thorn in the side and is clearly deterring public expenditure, forcing industry – and notably the key automotive sector – to implement production cuts along the pipeline. And labour supply in many countries is simply failing to keep pace with demand.’

Shah adds that even in his native India, its strong GDP growth has not filtered down to the scrap sector. He criticises the EU for moving towards changes to its Waste Shipment Regulation promises which he believes places an even heavier bureaucratic burden on the recycling industry in the guise of stricter inspection/audit requirements.

‘It seems baffling that this should be happening at a time when the recycling sector is gaining ever greater recognition as the environment’s best industrial partner,’ he concludes.

A contribution from BIR’s expert on China, Ma Hongchang, notes the country’s non-ferrous metals recycling industry has achieved ‘extraordinary success’ over the past decade.

‘Data shows that, over the 10-year period to 2021, it played an important role in promoting the high-quality and sustainable development of the non-ferrous metals industry as a whole,’ he says.

China’s recycled non-ferrous metals output increased from 10.39 million tonnes (Mt) in 2012 to 15.72 Mt in 2021, making a total for the period of 130 Mt: 31 Mt of copper, 64.65 Mt of aluminium, 19.47 Mt of lead and 14.49 Mt of zinc. This, he says, contributed a quarter of the raw materials for China’s non-ferrous metals industry.

Over the same period, China utilised more than 100 Mt of metal from domestic non-ferrous scrap. The proportion of domestic recycled copper raw materials climbed from 41% in 2012 to 63% in 2021 while for aluminium the increase was from 50% to 87%. In 2021, the proportion of domestic raw materials in recycled non-ferrous metal reached 85%.

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