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Bulgaria waste law ‘wiping out’ established recyclers

Bulgaria – In the wake of a controversial waste management act, nearly half of Bulgaria’€™s 2400 scrap metal yards have been forced to shut their doors. Meanwhile, still-active ferrous and non-ferrous traders could yet be stripped of their permits and licences.

Despite a year-long debate and strong opposition, the law now passed by the Bulgarian parliament requires recycled metal dealers to apply for new licences and to set up in locations authorised and monitored by local agencies. Furthermore, only electronic payment will be allowed while municipalities are expected to establish their own scrap yards within a two-year timeframe where citizens will be requested to deposit their scrap free of charge.

According to the parliament, the bill was initially drafted to counter on-going metal theft and to help prevent the threat of EU fines. However, small and medium enterprises are claiming the new legislation is designed to ‘€˜monopolise the sector’€™ and push a large number of them out of the business.

Indeed, the Bulgarian Association of Recycling says the law puts at risk the future of a sector which is one of the country’€™s most profitable in these difficult economic times. ‘€˜There are lobbyist interests behind the bill,’€™ argues the association’€™s head Vladimir Dimitrov. ‘€˜The new law will spell the death of more than 70% of small and medium sites.’€™

Mr Dimitrov has told the Sofia News Agency: ‘€˜The real aim of the bill is to radically re-draw the scrap metal market and give the lion’€™s share to a few big companies and organisations to the detriment of hundreds of small scrap yards which have been operating for more than ten years.’€™ This is being accomplished via the ‘€˜prohibitively large bank guarantees’€™ which the law now requires, averaging US$ 31 070 for setting up a company and a further US$ 6200 to start a scrap yard.

Describing the law as an attempt to ‘€˜wipe out’€™ longer-established players, he predicts such a process will adversely affect the recycling loop by depriving steel producers of relatively cheap raw materials. ‘€˜Instead of being used by the local industry, they will be exported and sold abroad,’€™ explains Mr Dimitrov. ‘€˜In order to meet their needs, the metallurgical companies will be forced to import raw materials, which will impact Bulgaria’€™s foreign trade balance.’€™

Traders in ferrous and non-ferrous metals have already announced their determination to air their grievances with the country’€™s President, the Constitutional Court and the five directorates within the European Commission.

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