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United Kingdom

UK metal recyclers eagerly awaited two dates in mid-November: the sell-out British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) Annual Dinner, which had nearly 600 attendees; and the long-awaited proposed draft revision of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. Clearly, as mainland European countries are key destinations for some of our non-ferrous raw materials from recycling, these proposals would bring consequences for the UK metals recycling industry.

The draft proposes that companies within the EU wishing to export to recycling facilities in OECD countries such as the UK would have to conduct audits of those facilities every three years. The draft recommends that the audit criteria should include ensuring that the facility of destination: is authorized and designed for environmentally sound treatment of the metal; has environmental and health, management and monitoring systems; has traceability on the waste received; has energy/climate measures in place; holds five-year records of shipment/waste management activities; and has not been involved in illegal activities.

This is not yet officially-adopted EU legislation; it still has to be reviewed and adopted by the EU Parliament and Council. This process is expected to take one to two years to complete but, given the major political interest, this could be achieved in a shorter timeframe. Approval will be followed by a transition period of approximately two to three years.

For many months, the BMRA has been supporting the efforts of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation in lobbying EU leaders on the potentially disastrous effects of a blanket restriction on exports of raw materials from recycling. The BMRA is also taking steps to deter the UK government from embracing the EU export restriction approach; if our government were to place restrictions on exports or to impose other trade impediments such as tariffs or the specification of higher quality criteria, it would be very problematic for the UK non-ferrous recycling industry.

UK non-ferrous recyclers are also bracing themselves for a major impact on our bottom lines in April when their entitlement to use red diesel (rebated fuel) will be withdrawn and, overnight, double plant and equipment diesel costs.

Market-wise, UK non-ferrous yards are currently experiencing a slight drop in volumes coming through the gates but are hopeful this is just a lull before the Christmas storm. They are also reporting that unpredictable market and currency fluctuations are providing a challenge. Some merchants are widening their margins as an insurance policy against these fluctuations.

Demand from consumers is still there and merchants say they are having no issues in selling, but they must ensure the correct quality is sold to the right destination. European mills have been reducing discounts for copper scrap to be competitive with Asia. Buyers are cautious when quoting for brass, which is not as easy to hedge, as they do not want to get caught on volatile market highs.