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Raining on a sunny day

Trying to extrapolate some of the key developments and events impacting the global economy over the last six to eight weeks has felt like a match-up between the “DE”s and the “RE”s. Words like DEcoupling, DErisking and DEdollarization have resonated a lot and are coming up against REgionalization, REglobalization and REcession. A world trying to put the pieces together and rebuild itself from the pandemic - amid a conflict in Ukraine whose scale, reach and end result remain a mystery - finds itself devoid of momentum and lost for a clear economic direction.

Supply constraints and the spike in energy prices which riled global economies last year have now become an irrelevant, outdated story. Similarly, high inflation - which until recently had been giving sleepless nights to central banks around the world - is not really a hot topic any more. Despite factory orders showing only marginal traction in April, major stock indices have pared their losses and have substantially recovered from the lows of autumn 2022. Fragility in the US banking sector and the breaching of their debt ceiling have still not led to a plunge in the dollar. On the other hand, gold is trading at historical highs, acting as a bunker for investors when chaos reigns. Overall, randomness seems to be at play, making people wonder as much as when it rains on a clear, sunny day.

Circling back to the word regionalization, policy interventions by governments seek to create a safety perimeter for raw material resources and their use to strengthen domestic industry. The EU is taking quantum leaps in releasing its framework for the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (to be implemented on October 1 this year) and its Critical Raw Materials Act, alongside overhauling the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. The USA is also working on a critical minerals policy which has metal scrap within its ambit.

With a recent report pointing to a copper shortage of 6 million tons over the next decade, adapting regionalization over globalization seems to be the strategy when it comes to metal scrap. This was somewhat in evidence at ISRI’s recent Convention in Nashville: with the USA adding new recycled aluminium capacities of over 1 million tons, the big question posed at the event was “Where will the scrap come from?”

We will soon be celebrating BIR’s 75th anniversary - a moment of pride and happiness not just for BIR members but for the entire global fraternity engaged in recycling. These 75 glorious years have seen us truly evolve and grow into an indispensable force, contributing to a more sustainable future for everyone. So thank you BIR for helping to institutionalize recycling and make it part of our daily lives.