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United Kingdom

The UK is once again easing its COVID rules after calls by government ministers to reduce restrictions and for us to “learn to live with the virus”. The government has scrapped its work-from-home guidance and face coverings are no longer mandatory. People are to self-isolate for five days if they test positive and may end quarantine after this period if they return a negative lateral flow test on days five and six. These regulations are due to expire on March 24 and it is currently speculated that they will not be renewed.

Merchants returned to their yards after the holidays to a brief flurry of activity, mainly through suppliers bringing in material not delivered prior to Christmas or collected during the festivities. Unfortunately, this was a short-lived upturn, with merchants and traders reporting generally slow trading during January. This is not unusual at this time of year as it often takes a few weeks for everyone to get back up and running after the festive period.

Entering February, we also anticipate a lull in demand from China as a result of Chinese New Year celebrations, starting this year on January 31 and lasting until February 15. Demand for copper and brass is strong at present, especially from China, India and other parts of Asia. A shortage of supply means discounts are better than would be expected at the current high LME price levels.

Some merchants are exporting lead but, in the main, the UK’s domestic market is regarded as better. There is currently a good supply of scrap lead in the UK and the abundance of lead acid batteries available for recycling is keeping a lid on their price.

There is a good supply and demand for aluminium, although the high LME price has given rise to a slight supply shortage on the higher grades.

Overall, healthy concluding financial reports for 2021 and continuing buoyant LME prices are making UK non-ferrous traders and merchants optimistic for 2022. Changes to legislation and increasing levels of regulation are deemed to be the biggest threats to our businesses. Unfortunately, metal recycling is often inhibited by the historical focus on policies for hazardous waste management rather than on policies that focus on recovering metals as a resource.

To help highlight the key role that recycling does and must play, especially if the world is to reach its climate-neutral objectives, the Global Recycling Foundation has launched its search for the Recycling Heroes of 2022. The ten winners will be announced on Global Recycling Day, March 18, and each will receive a US$ 1000 prize. It is vital that the contribution of non-ferrous metal recyclers is recognized and so please send your entries to by March 8.