Lockdowns exert ‘stranglehold’ on scrap supply

The Bureau of International Recycling has issued a trading update warning that lockdown restrictions  are exerting a “stranglehold on scrap supply” across the world.  

The Volvo excavators will be added to the fleet at the Portsmouth recycling centre
The BIR has issued a series of trading updates since the start of the pandemic

The latest update forms part of a series of similar messages the body has published during the pandemic outlining how the recycling sector is dealing with the virus. 

Yesterday’s (23 April) update states that most manufacturers are operating in mainland China, where the virus is “under control”, but no statistics are available to show production rates.

Raw material “was in short supply for a very small window”, but quickly closed again. Taiwan is following broadly the same pattern as mainland China, the BIR added.  


As waste has been classed as an essential industry in the UK, the BIR said that recycling companies are still trading.  

The BMRA has issued an advisory for members to show should they or their employees be stopped

The BIR  added that the British Metals Recycling Association has issued an advisory for members to show to council workers and police officers should they or their employees be stopped. 

The BMRA have advised all members of the association to continue to trade to maintain the essential sector.  

“Government departments are supporting the position that anyone involved in the collection, processing, recycling and disposal of waste, including scrap metal, is allowed, if not encouraged, to continue operating,” the BIR update said.  

The body added that factory and industrial waste collections are still taking place but at 30-50% of normal turnover. Most recycling merchants who usually accepted waste from the public have also closed their doors. 


Lockdowns in Singapore have been extended until June, and 180,000 of foreign workers have been quarantined. The BIR say this will surely impact the generation, collection and processing of scrap.

“Anyone involved in the collection, processing recycling and disposal of waste is allowed, if not encouraged, to continue operating”

Bureau of International Recycling

The BIR said that this means scrap yards will operate at reduced activity as the majority of workforce from Malaysia will not be able to come to work. 

Logistics and finding shipping slows will also present a major issues.


The US scrap industry is reportedly essential and functioning and is adapting to the situation regularly. 

According to the BIR, the West and East coasts are more sensitive and reactive to the International situation and the movement of scrap from producers and consumers, while the middle of the country is focused on domestic scrap producers and consumers.  


Scrap availability fell significantly throughout Europe but has began improving, the update say. 

Aluminium has been hit by a lower demand from the automotive sector. 

Germany, which is taking tentative steps out of lockdown, is seeing industrial production restarting with major automotive companies operating at reduced capacity.  

The recycling industry in France has been declared essential but the long supply chain of metal is badly disrupted. Scrap yards are reportedly only handling around 20% of their usual volumes. 

Scrap yards are open in the middle East but dealing 30% less supply. 

Copper and luminous industries continue to operate but cathode and scrap inflows have declined sharply.  

Lebanon have closed all scrap yards, as it is not considered an essential industry.

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