Metals sector warned over EU’s green agenda

Moves towards a greener economy with more legislation around waste and recycling could hinder trade, this week’s Metals Recycling Event was told by sector experts.

Speakers at the MRE session were (l-r) James Kelly, BMRA; chair Susie Burrage, BMRA president; and Emmanuel Katrakis, EURIC

Both James Kelly, chief executive of the British Metals Recycling Association and Emmanuel Katrakis, secretary general of European recycling confederation EURIC, explained their concerns over legislation around recycling in the face of pan-European public desires for greener policies.

Mr Kelly declared that one of the “biggest challenges over the next few years is environmental regulation. There is a danger of this killing the industry, a danger of being regulated out of business.”

He turned in particular to the importance of the export market for UK metal recyclers with around 8 million out of 10.5 million tonnes of metal arisings exported each year.

James Kelly said that talks about metal exports to China were taking place

He noted that Chinese steelmakers are working with the Chinese government over a potential loosening of restrictions. But he warned that “quality is key still – China is purity obsessed”. Mr Kelly explained that China’s possible desire for a purity of 0.3% is difficult to meet.

Restrictions

And, he also revealed that the BMRA has been in discussions with the Department for Business over potential government plans to introduce restrictions on the quality of scrap exports because that would help the UK industry.

He said: “Steelmakers have been talking to government about the quality of their scrap. The government might look to interfere and mandate certain restrictions on quality that can be exported in the hope that that would help the UK industry. It would be a folly to go down that route.”

The BMRA chief executive also said that UK steelmakers needed to invest more in electric arc furnaces as traditional BOS furnaces can only use up to 30% scrap at most whereas the electric arc furnaces depend almost entirely on scrap as a feedstock.

Green agenda

Giving a European perspective, Mr Katrakis, who is a lawyer by background, said that there was a large amount of regulatory changes ahead from the European Union. “Despite the fact that we have had the Covid pandemic, we thought there would be more time to adapt, but the European institutions have decided to maintain the green agenda.

“Frankly, I didn’t think we were going to have so many regulatory changes in so short a period of time.”

He went on to describe the December 2019 announcement by the Commission as Europe’s “man on the moon moment”.

Emmanuel Katrakis of EURIC described Europe’s green agenda as its “man on the moon moment”

On the agenda from Europe under their 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan are several topics, said Mr Katrakis. These include targets for recycled content and recycling, the development of markeds for secondary raw materials, eco design and a simplification of waste shipment procedures within the EU but more “problematic” restrictions for outside of the EU.

He reasoned that the driver for all the change was because “all the plastic waste bashing is having a big impact in Brussels, including for everything that is a waste, which for scrap metal is a very bad thing.

“They have an approach of putting everything in the same basked. We understand why they want to restrict plastic waste exports, especially mixed plastic wastes.”

Shipments

The revision of waste shipment regulations does worry Euric a lot, Mr Katrakis noted. “The Commission wants to make it much stricter – with annex seven rules now you have to export to places which are broadly equivalent. The commission wants to have the paper mills and steelworks to be at European standards.”
He emphasised that while the EU was pushing for a large metals industry in Europe, exports are a positive market. “We are aiming to minimise the impacts on the scrap metal industry at large.”

Stoneleigh

Mr Katrakis and Mr Kelly were both speaking at a session during the Metals Recycling Event held at the Stoneleigh NAEC on 29 September. The free-to-attend event continues today (30 September).

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