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South East Asia

In recent years, Malaysia has emerged as a focal point for the recycling of scrap metal. The country experienced a rapid increase in the number of flotation lines and smelting facilities between 2018 and the first half of this year, attracting a steady stream of investors to its market and making Malaysia a preferred destination for processing scrap metal.

In the second half of this year, however, the Malaysian government has begun to enforce stricter standards and regulations for imports and exports of scrap metal. While these regulations were necessary to ensure environmental sustainability and to maintain the country’s reputation, they have resulted in a significant rise in processing costs and made processor business increasingly unprofitable for many operating in Malaysia. As a consequence of these higher costs, Malaysia’s scrap metal industry is now being forced into a crucial strategic move to ensure its survival by transitioning from being processors to becoming manufacturers of value-added products that cater to a broader range of consumer needs. This transition is essential for their competitiveness.

The sudden change in Malaysia’s regulatory environment has prompted investors to seek out other options, leading some to turn their attention towards Thailand. At the recent MRAI Business Summit in Bangkok, it was evident that Chinese investors were flocking to Thailand to explore opportunities in the scrap metal industry. Numerous scrap metal processing sites have begun to emerge within a 100 km radius of Bangkok.

The shift from Malaysia to Thailand highlights the impact of government policies on the scrap metal trade. With Malaysia enforcing stricter regulations and thereby increasing processing costs, investors have found a more favourable climate in Thailand where such costs remain manageable.

It remains to be seen how this trend will further develop in the coming years. Will Malaysia be able to successfully transition from processing to manufacturing and maintain its competitiveness within the industry? And how will Thailand harness the opportunities arising from the shift in investor focus? The answers to these questions will shape the future of the scrap metal trade in South East Asia.