EU steelmakers welcome parliamentary vote to restrict scrap steel, metal exports

European steelmakers’ association Eurofer Dec. 1 welcomed approval of a reform to the EU’s scrap steel and metals trade policy which could significantly curb scrap exports. Traders and scrap merchants are however expected to be alarmed by a move that may affect both EU and global scrap metals pricing.

Eurofer said in a statement that it considered changes brought by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) vote to the bloc’s Waste Shipment Regulation “a welcome step in the right direction to ensure that environmental and social standards equivalent to the EU’s are met when waste is exported to third countries.”

“However, significant issues remain largely unaddressed with room for further improvement, in particular by strengthening monitoring for OECD countries and by pre-empting circumvention which risks to weaken the effectiveness of the new measures,” Eurofer said.

The European Parliament said Dec. 1 that ENVI had voted to adopt a report by the European Commission on the reform of EU procedures and control measures on waste shipments, to boost Europe’s circular economy, resource efficiency and zero-pollution goals. The report was adopted by 76 votes in favor, none against and five abstentions.

The vote means that all EU companies that export waste outside the bloc should ensure that the facilities receiving their waste are subject to an independent audit showing they manage the waste in an environmentally sound manner.

In addition, EU exports of non-hazardous waste for recovery would be allowed only to those non-OECD countries that give their consent and demonstrate their ability to treat this waste sustainably, the European members of parliament said.

The new measures are now due to be adopted in January. The EC had initially presented its proposals on waste shipments in November 2021.

The steelmakers’ association noted that the text adopted Dec. 1 contained some important improvements on the European Commission’s proposal, with respect to environmental, social, health and safety concerns.

“Ferrous scrap is a valuable secondary raw material and essential for the steel industry’s decarbonization. It does not make any sense to move waste challenges abroad, whilst the recycling of metal waste – where the European steel sector plays a central role – remains key for reaching the circular economy and CO2 emissions targets in the EU,” said Axel Eggert, Eurofer director general. “Our sector’s scrap needs will rapidly increase in the next years, as our green steel projects to be implemented by 2030 will require significantly more scrap.”

Ferrous scrap is by far the most exported waste from the EU, with exports totaling 19.5 million mt in 2021, equal to 59% of all EU waste exports, according to EU statistical office Eurostat.

Eurofer said the material currently being exported could be recycled domestically within the EU into new steel products, following the EU’s high environmental standards.

“For every ton of carbon steel scrap recycled, a saving of 1.5 mt of CO2 is achieved, and in the case of stainless-steel scrap this saving is even higher, reaching roughly 5 mt of CO2,” Eurofer said. “The recycling of ferrous scrap is therefore one of the clearest examples of how to reach the objectives that the EU has set for the upcoming decades: circular economy, decarbonization and energy saving.”

Brussels-based International Recycling Bureau, or BIR, a strong proponent of free trade, had no immediate reaction Dec. 1 to the long-awaited European Parliament vote on waste shipments.

BIR executives had earlier this year said the imposition of EU scrap steel and metal export controls risked distorting both international and regional scrap markets, particularly for ferrous scrap. Controls could reduce global market supplies, inflating prices in some markets, but at the same time inhibit scrap arisings and collection within the EU, potentially leading to lower regional prices. This in turn would play into the hands of EU steelmakers, reducing the cost to mills of ferrous scrap, which is likely to be increasingly sought after for their decarbonization programs.

Scrap-based electric arc furnace steelmaking produces significantly fewer carbon emissions than iron ore and coking coal-based integrated steelmaking.

Turkish import deepsea scrap prices climbed sharply Nov. 30, as tight cargo availability, slow scrap collection rates and continued mill restocking pushed prices higher.

Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed Turkish imports of premium heavy melting scrap 1/2 80:20 at $371/mt CFR Nov. 30, up $5/mt on the day. The assessment has increased $34.50/mt since a recent low of $336.50/mt CFR two weeks ago.

— Diana Kinch