Skip to main content

United Kingdom

The Bank of England has raised its interest rates for the third time in four months - from 0.5% to 0.75%. The Bank’s policy-makers cited the rising cost of living and strong employment as the reasons for the latest increase.

According to the Office for National Statistics, energy and fuel prices had contributed to the increase in the cost of living. The Bank has warned inflation may reach 8% and possibly higher in the coming months and that the conflict in Ukraine “is likely to exacerbate global supply chain disruptions, and has increased the uncertainty around the economic outlook significantly”.

The dramatic daily fluctuations in LME prices are providing challenges for merchants in the UK as in the rest of the world. The words being used to describe the current UK non-ferrous market are patchy, uneven and variable. Some days are busy while others are not so, in a way that does not always correlate with the rise and fall in market prices.

There is still good demand for copper, aluminium and lead - although some merchants are citing limited demand for lead within the UK. Supply is steady and, despite the volatile prices, discounts are stable - except for brass for which discounts have widened. Some traders are finding brass consumers reluctant to quote during market spikes.

Since the beginning of 2020, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has been working tirelessly in conjunction with the UK Environment Agency to determine whether non-WEEE cables are “hazardous” or contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in levels that exceed thresholds. After about three months of detailed discussions with the Agency, a methodology was agreed and the BMRA started sampling non-WEEE cables to determine their waste classification and POPs status. The BMRA has now assessed 2280 inner cables and outer sheaths from 740 unique whole cables; tested cables included both PVC and non-PVC polymers taken from a number of different locations and representing different cable types, including household, data and end-of-life vehicle cables, as well as 60% and 28% copper-content cables.

Despite some variations between the different cable types, a significant proportion of each exceeded the concentration limit for at least one hazard property. The concentrations of lead, antimony trioxide, zinc (if the zinc is present as zinc oxide) and medium-chain chlorinated paraffins (MCCPs) are the contributing parameters to the hazard property limit exceedances. The proportion of whole cables that should be classified as POPs waste is highly likely to be closer to the lower end of that range (0.7%) using current concentration limits.

In other words, non-WEEE cables are likely to be considered as hazardous, non-POPs waste.
Also, the hazardous property assessment for cable polymer suggested that the extrapolated dataset for bulk cable granulate would be classified as non-hazardous, non-POPS waste as the majority of cables tested had very low concentrations of lead, antimony trioxide, zinc oxide, short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs), MCCPs and deca-BDE.

However, these assessments are subject to confirmation by the UK environmental enforcement agencies. The BMRA is now working closely with the UK Environment Agency to mitigate the impacts of a “hazardous” classification, including: avoiding unnecessary costs associated with changes to permitting; the development of a regulatory position statement to allow sites that currently handle non-WEEE cable to continue to do so; and a derogation from the Hazardous Waste Consignment Note fee for small loads of non-WEEE cables.