Metals recycling in EU could collapse under new rules, companies say

The EU proposals aim to restrict the export of waste materials such as metals, plastics and textiles as part of efforts to increase recycling within the bloc. [gfpeck / Flickr]

Europe’s metals recycling industry could collapse under the European Commission’s proposed changes to waste shipments that clamp down on exports to encourage recycling, members of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) have warned.

The EU proposals aim to restrict the export of waste materials such as metals, plastics and textiles as part of efforts to increase recycling within the bloc and stop waste being shipped to emerging market countries where it may be dumped rather than recycled.

But BIR members said the regulations would create a surplus of material in Europe and disrupt the flow of scrap metals and other materials to buyers outside the EU.

“The EU Green Deal if carried out in the guise of a ‘one fits all’ approach may have detrimental effects to green recycling in areas such as ours,” European Metal Recycling’s Murat Bayram said during the BIR’s annual World Recycling Convention, taking place online this year.

“Export restrictions would result in nothing short of a collapse of the current strong green infrastructure that relies on unhampered access to end-markets all over the world,” Bayram added.

Recyclers fret as EU plastic waste export ban comes into force

New EU rules came into force on 1 January, prohibiting the shipment of unsorted plastic waste to foreign countries. Although the move will increase pressure on Europe to recycle, activists say the ban is likely to increase landfilling and waste burning inside the Union.

An EU spokeswoman on environmental affairs said the European Commission was not planning a blanket ban on all export of waste, adding that the regulations would ensure the bloc doesn’t “export its waste challenges outside its borders”.

The metals industry, meanwhile, argues that lumping together all secondary materials as “waste” would obscure the high-quality metal that goes into smelting facilities and that European recyclers do not have enough capacity to process it all.

“The worst that can happen with the Waste Shipment Regulation revision is an increase in unjustified export prohibitions and inclusion of technical barriers to trade, such as requiring exactly the same company conditions outside the EU as within the EU, that will make exports impossible,” Ross Bartley, BIR’s environmental and trade director, told Reuters.

The adoption of legislative proposals on waste shipments was scheduled for later this year, a spokeswoman for the EU said, but did not have a more precise date.

Stop exporting plastic waste out of Europe, EU lawmakers say

Thirty-one lawmakers in the European Parliament have signed a manifesto calling for the end of plastic waste exports outside Europe and the facilitation of intra-EU shipment procedures to promote a genuine circular economy within the EU.


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