16 December 2015 by Tom Goulding

Packaging specialist appointed BMRA director general

Ian Hetherington is to step down as director general of the British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA) – with Ardagh Group’s Robert Fell named as his successor.

Mr Hetherington, who was appointed director general in early 2009, will continue to advise the BMRA on Europe before retiring in autumn 2016.

Ian Hetherington, left, receives a retirement gift from BMRA president Shane Mellor at the Association’s annual dinner in Birmingham

Looking back on his seven-year tenure, Mr Hetherington told letsrecycle.com that he had gained a broad understanding of the metals recycling sector – and overcome many challenges along the way.

He originally came to the full time role having previously served as chief executive of Skills for Logistics, the sector skills council serving freight logistics. Experience of government relations and representation of both small and large businesses sector made the move a natural fit.

Mr Hetherington said: “On the face of it it’s one of the great challenges. But the reality is the large and small players work incredibly well together in this industry. It’s in their interest to look towards the interests of the industry rather than themselves. I’ve never encountered a conflict, they’ve all been extremely fair.

“Not long after my arrival metal theft became the daily stuff of the press. In the build up to the London Olympics in 2012 the focus on metal theft meant that the press and public demanded government act, which took up a good four of my seven years. It was extremely challenging because the industry was being fingered as the cause of metal theft which is wholly wrong and unjust.”


The drive to clamp down on metal theft led to the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. The legislation banned scrap dealers from trading in cash, and required photographic proof of identity to be produced at the point of sale of scrap.

Mr Hetherington added: “It’s a secondary concern now for every police force in the UK. Operation Tornado was extremely successful in stifling the outlet for illegal scrap. The great regret is the police have failed to follow up and enforce the provisions of the Act, and as a consequence there are a growing number of people out there breaking the law.”

Commenting on the challenges facing his successor, he continued: “The biggest challenge we face is a complete lack of understanding of secondary raw materials compared with primary materials with which we compete.

“I am sure Robert will prosper, making the case for metal recyclers and pushing the narrative forward. The key challenge is not a defensive one. What we need to be doing is getting on the front foot and making the case for recycling in light of talks in Paris. Maybe the next round should focus on resources, I think that is what we will see over the next three to five years.”

Mr Hetherington will now represent the BMRA on the board of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC), looking at what legislation delivered through the circular economy package could mean for the sector. He will step down altogether in September, and intends to pursue his love of sailing.

Robert Fell

Robert Fell comes to the BMRA with 30 years' experience in the metals recycling sector

Robert Fell comes to the BMRA with 30 years’ experience in the metals recycling sector

Mr Fell meanwhile arrives in the role from his most recent post as a senior research and development manager for packaging specialist Ardagh Group.

He has over 30 years’ experience in the metals industry and also currently serves as director of the British Aerosols Manufacturers Association and as acting chairman of the Metal Packaging Manufacturing Association.

In addition, the Board has promoted Howard Bluck, the BMRA’s current head of environment to be technical director.

Commenting on the appointment of Mr Fell, Shane Mellor, President of the BMRA Board said: “We are delighted that Robert has agreed to take on the task of developing, shaping and delivering key messages that will highlight the metals recycling industry’s role in safeguarding the environment for future generations. As an industry, we have a great story to tell and I am pleased that he is eager to help us share that story more widely.”

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