New EU regulation could hamper scrap investments: BIR

The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has responded to the EU’s waste shipment proposal by saying further restrictions to trade can be counter-productive to ensuring a circular economy.

On Wednesday the European Commission published a proposal to review waste shipment regulations, which includes the implementation of limitations and standards to be applied to firms exporting outside the EU (see Kallanish passim).

BIR says it fully supports regulations that aim to protect the environment and promote the correct use of waste. It nevertheless notes the Commission seems to be targeting lower prices for waste and scrap in the EU domestic market, leading to possible further investment cuts by recyclers.

“The proposal significantly diverges from free and fair trade in an open intention to reduce the cost of materials within the EU, allowing those in the EU to use more waste as feedstock, which they should be able to purchase at a lower price,” the association says. “These trade restrictions, artificially lowering the costs of materials in the EU for the EU manufacturing industry, will affect the capacity of the European recycling industry to invest in efficient and innovative recycling capacities and processes.”

“Also, by cutting access to outside markets, they will result in excess volumes which will be lost to the global circular economy,” BIR adds. “Such changes will finally have a counterproductive effect on the implementation of a truly global circular economy.”

According to the association, putting new limits on exports could also limit waste and scrap collection. “Over many years the EU has been continually increasing separate collection of used and end-of-life goods and materials. The consequences of these well-supported actions, and the efforts of all citizens, is that there is an excess of recyclables collected in the EU, more than is currently consumed in the EU. Without buyers within the EU these excess steel scraps, aluminium scrap, copper scrap, and scrap paper are exported to manufacturers in third countries; that €13 billion trade provides revenue for EU Member States,” BIR points out.

While the new proposal does not seem to significantly limit ferrous scrap trade from Europe, it could impose new burdens on exporters, mainly for sales to non-OECD countries such as India, Egypt or China.

Emanuele Norsa Italy