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Covid-19: the picture in your part of the world

The Bureau of international Recycling has released its latest snapshot of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on recyclers globally. The report has been compiled by BIR ambassadors, prominent members of the bureau who represent its activities around the world.

China and Taiwan: Most manufacturers in mainland China are operating but no statistics are available to show production rates. Taiwan is following broadly the same pattern as mainland China. According to Xinhua News, the People’s Bank of China has released a US$ 1 trillion fund in a bid to repair the damaged economy, of which 80% is going to businesses and industries.

USA: Each state has its own mandate for opening or remaining closed. ‘It would be reasonable to think that decisions will be based on what is the best protocol for the population and on the circumstances for a particular state rather than on public opinion. That remains to be seen.’

The US scrap industry is essential and functioning. The West and East coasts are far more sensitive and reactive to the international situation; the middle of the country is focused more on the domestic producers of scrap and on domestic consumers. Most states will be reassessing the situation on 1 May.

India: The lockdown has been extended within city ‘red zones’ in which no movement is allowed. BIR reports, ‘Conditions are severe, with industry-wide closures and no physical movement of anything other than essential goods. Commuting is restricted solely to those engaged in essential roles. A waiver of shipping demurrage and detention by theMinistry of Shipping reflects the government’s great efforts to support theimport/export sector’.  

Singapore: Lockdown has been extended from the original date of 4 May until 1 June with additional measures being enforced immediately. ‘With very aggressive testing, even for people with no symptoms, most new cases have been in foreign workers’ dormitories. One of the key effects of this is that factories and scrap yards will be reduced to minimal activity levels because the majority of their workforce from Malaysia would not be able to come to work’.

The country has also quarantined 180 000 foreign workers, a move expected to affect the generation, collection and processing of scrap. Another big issue is logistics and securing shipping slots.

Europe: Scrap availability throughout thecontinent fell significantly but has begun improving week by week. Oil prices are not helping to restore confidence with further volatility expected within the raw material markets. Aluminium has been hit by lower demand from the automotive sector.

Germany: Small shops of up to 800 square metres have reopened as have schools for those sitting exams. Industrial production appears to be restarting with the major automotive companies producing cars at a reduced capacity and the market is expecting incentives, similar to those seen during the 2008-09 financial crisis, to boost sales.

France: In lockdown since 16 March but a gradual relaxation of restrictions is scheduled for 11 May. ‘The recycling industry has been declared essential but, for metals, the long supply chain is badly disrupted and those scrap yards still open are handling only around 20% of their usual volumes. Despite the weak demand for metals in France, the rest of Europe and internationally, it is still much greater than the supply of secondary products.’

UK: The lockdown has been extended until at least 7 May. Waste is classed as an essential industry and anyone involved in the collection, processing, recycling and disposal of waste, including scrap metal, can continue to operate. Business secretary Alok Sharma wrote a letter thanking waste industry businesses for their work in keeping the UK economy going. 

In a regulatory position statement expiring on 30 June, the UK Environment Agency set out conditions that operators must follow so they do not have to sign or hand over paper copies of waste transfer and consignment notes in person.

Africa: Ramadan began on 23 April so the recycling industries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, already affected by measures to protect workers from the virus, will be impacted by the usual drop-off in demand. The impact on Senegal, Mali and Chad will be less significant than in northern Africa. The main issue affecting recyclers is lower prices and the absence of international buyers, mainly from India.

Middle East: The situation is said to be similar across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. ‘Yards are open for those who can afford to finance day-to-day activities but scrap inflows are down to 30% of the norm because overall sentiment is low as it is not profitable to run with a full workforce when volumes are so reduced; low LME prices have depressed normal scrap collection activity; and circulation of finance by banks has become so restricted unless transactions are on online, which is not normal practice in the scrap industry where payments by cash or cheque are customary.’
The copper and aluminium industries continue to operate but cathode and scrap inflows have declined sharply.

‘Overall sentiment in the Middle East is depressed and activities have been subdued following the oil price crash to historic below-zero levels. This is creating havoc in the financial markets and will put tremendous pressure on government budgets, which in turn will affect infrastructure and real estate development – the main source of scrap metal supply.’

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