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United Kingdom

After a successful vaccine rollout, the UK is experiencing a stronger-than-expected economic rebound. This is reflected in the domestic non-ferrous recycling sector steadily returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The biggest roadblock at present is the national shortfall in HGV drivers, which is stimulating shortages in supermarkets and on petrol forecourts owing to panic-buying by consumers. In general, the UK is not short of any products or resources, but retailers are struggling to move items around the country. In the main, the UK’s recycling industries are also dependent on the movement of goods by road and many merchants are currently struggling to recruit HGV drivers.

On a positive note, merchants and traders are reporting good demand, with offers from Europe, the Far East and India for all types and grades of non-ferrous material. The aluminium market is buoyant, with the LME price at its highest level in over 10 years and with grades such as old rolled and wheels commanding a premium.
Prices for copper grades have been on something of a roller-coaster ride when compared to a static lead market whose flatness has been accentuated by the considerable increases experienced by other metals.

Merchants who buy and those who granulate cable are awaiting with great interest the results of an Environment Agency-approved BMRA programme of testing and analysis of the outer and inner sheaths of non-WEEE cables. The results will enable an appropriate classification of non-WEEE cables, whether that be hazardous or non-hazardous. In the interim, the BMRA has been working closely with the Environment Agency on potential scenarios that may arise from this work. Specifically, if non-WEEE cables become hazardous waste, there will be permitting issues that need to be addressed.