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UK metal recyclers have been watching with interest the progress of proposed changes to the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR). Being net exporters but also importers from the EU, particularly from the Republic of Ireland, any restrictions placed on exports will certainly have a detrimental effect. So we shared the dismay of our fellow European recyclers when the European Parliament adopted its resolution on the WSR on January 17. The next step will be for the Council to establish its general approach on the WSR proposal before the trialogue negotiations with the European Commission can start. We will continue to monitor their decisions closely.

If the regulation is passed in its current form, the EU will enhance the monitoring of waste being exported to the UK as well as to all other OECD countries. EU companies wishing to export to the UK will have to “conduct independent audits in the facilities to where they ship waste in order to ensure that those facilities are operating in line with criteria showing that they manage waste in an environmentally sound manner”. Further details and practical arrangements for the monitoring and audits are not yet available.

Here in the UK, political turbulence and the merry-go-round of ministerial appointments seem to have abated and we hope the new incumbents will be receptive to our business concerns, notably retaining free and fair trade without restrictions and giving positive recognition to our industry’s unique contribution to the UK’s net-zero and circularity ambitions.

As predicted, non-ferrous merchants confirm that December did not deliver the usual pre- holiday flurry of business. But merchants and traders have reported a positive start to 2023, with the first three weeks of trading being above average. The sharp rise in LME prices was partially responsible for that.

There continues to be reasonable demand globally for all UK non-ferrous grades - the only exception being aluminium extrusion which, some traders are saying, is currently difficult to place in the UK and Europe. This fall in demand is likely due to the huge increase in energy costs and order books not being as strong as consumers would like.

The Confederation of British Industry’s latest industrial trends survey shows that the UK manufacturing sector reported stable output in the quarter to January following a small decline in the quarter to December. But this output was due manufacturers tackling work backlogs rather than increasing order volumes. Cost and pricing pressures remain high in manufacturing but are showing signs of easing. Looking ahead, manufacturers expect new orders and output volumes to increase in the next three months.

The survey also showed that numbers of employed people continued to rise in the three months to January and firms expect headcount to increase yet further in the next three months. Investment intentions for the year ahead are mixed: manufacturers expect to increase investment in training/retraining, plant/machinery and product/process innovation whereas investment in buildings is expected to decline in the year ahead.