About BIR

Founded in 1948, BIR was the first federation to support the interests of the recycling industry on an international scale. Today, BIR represents over 850 member companies from the private sector and 40 national associations in more than 70 countries. Together, these members form the largest international recycling federation.

The federation provides a dynamic forum for its members to share their knowledge and experience. It serves as a platform to establish successful business relations and to promote recycling among other industrial sectors and policy makers.

BIR is a non-profit organisation under Belgian law. Their statutes (Articles of Association) and Internal Regulations were revised and approved in October 2010. The registered office is currently headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.

Our Mission

The Bureau of International Recycling promotes materials recycling and facilitates free and fair trade of recyclables in a sustainable and competitive world economy.

Other key goals of BIR and its members are:

  • To speak as one voice representing the international recycling industries globally;
  • To raise public awareness of their economic and environmental contributions such as the reduction of energy consumption and of greenhouse emissions;
  • To promote free trade, the environmentally sound management of resources and the use of recycled materials worldwide;
  • To encourage manufacturers to design products with a better understanding of the possibilities for recycling;
  • To provide its members with a proper forum to discuss issues of importance to the international recycling community;
  • To provide its members, through arbitration, with a fast and efficient means to resolve commercial disputes.

Areas of Work

BIR offers its members timely information about the international recycling markets, their legislative context and the latest technologies. Its work is structured according to the following commodity divisions:

and commodity committies


A Word from BIR President Björn Grufman

I assume that most of us within the recycling industry would like to forget 2013, but in an Annual Report we need to make at least some observations about the past before talking about the future.

Besides the bad economic conditions for our sector, there were of course some general circumstances that we should remember.

  • Wars and unrest: In Syria, for instance, how long must its people continue to suffer? Without even trying to have an opinion about who is right and who is wrong, I just wonder for how long the rest of the world will just stand on the sidelines. Finally now, in 2014, we are seeing some kind of initiative that might lead to peace negotiations, but that should have happened long ago.
  • Weather conditions: These continue to bring chaos to various parts of the planet. On November 13 last year, for example, a terrible hurricane smashed into the Philippines, killing thousands of people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. We all ask the same question: is this a result of climate change? Let us hope that our leaders will agree some fresh global initiatives at the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, taking place in Peru this coming December.

In 2013, economic conditions for the recycling industry must have been the worst for many years. Let us once and for all blame the financial markets for our difficulties. It all started during the second half of 2008; we thought our problems had ended in 2010/11 but that was not the case. Then the debt crisis and the unbalanced budget in the USA became an issue for the financial markets at almost the exact same moment that the Euro crisis flared up. In 2012, Europe more or less stopped functioning from the wider financial perspective and, by last year, its industrial production had become substantially reduced. One of the consequences was that the steel industry found itself with an enormous overcapacity of, some say, 30%.

The metals recycling industry witnessed a reduced availability of scrap owing to lower levels of industrial activity and lower prices as a result of the overcapacity among our customers. The outcome of this is easy to understand: an even larger overcapacity in our sector than in the steel industry.

Only time will tell what the full impact will be on Europe’s scrap industry. But as always, we are more optimistic about the current year than the one just past.

Let us continue in this optimistic frame of mind. Let us hope for successful peace talks for Syria; for successful negotiations at the COP-20 meeting, with substantial agreement among world leaders on strides towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and for a recovery in the global economy that will restore our industry’s belief in future profitability.

BIR will continue to serve its membership in diverse ways, notably by organising the best Conventions which offer supreme global marketplaces for the recycling industry and which continue to attract our members’ support in great numbers.

We will continue to support the industry with all kinds of information from all corners of the globe. We will increase our presence in the world’s major hubs and will represent the recycling industry to the best of our ability in all the vital forums. We will inform decision-makers about the importance of our industry from every different perspective, including as raw material suppliers, as employers, as guardians of the environment, as reducers of greenhouse gas emissions, and so on.

The list of our positive contributions is long and we as an industry are developing all the time - maybe faster than most other industries.

Within BIR, our members are always welcome to contribute and we look forward to seeing new faces within our leadership ranks in the future.