Non-ferrous traders ‘optimistic’ about 2022

UK non-ferrous metals traders are “optimistic” about 2022 despite concerns about increased legislation, according to a representative of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).

Many metals recyclers previously used red diesel to power machinery (picture: Shutterstock)

The Brussels-based BIR is an international trade association for the recycling sector, with around 70 countries represented.

Susie Burrage, managing director of Chesham-based metal recycler Recycled Products Ltd, is a board member of the BIR’s non-ferrous metals division.

In a trading update, Ms Burrage attributed the optimism to “healthy” concluding financial reports for 2021 and “continuing buoyant” prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME).

She said: “Overall, healthy concluding financial reports for 2021 and continuing buoyant LME prices are making UK non-ferrous traders and merchants optimistic for 2022.

“Changes to legislation and increasing levels of regulation are deemed to be the biggest threats to our businesses.

“Unfortunately, metal recycling is often inhibited by the historical focus on policies for hazardous waste management rather than on policies that focus on recovering metals as a resource.”

Merchants returned to their yards after the festive holidays to “a brief flurry of activity”, Ms Burrage said, attributed to suppliers bringing in material not delivered prior to Christmas.

However, this was a “short-lived upturn”, with merchants and traders reporting generally slow trading during January, as is usual for this time of year, Ms Burrage said.

February

Ms Burrage said merchants anticipated a lull in demand from China in February because of Chinese New Year celebrations.

Susie Burrage is a board member of the BIR’s non-ferrous metals division (picture: BIR)

However, at present, demand for copper and brass is “strong”, Ms Burrage said, especially from China, India, and other parts of Asia. Ms Burrage added that a shortage of supply means “discounts are better than would be expected at the current high LME price levels”.

There is currently a “good supply” of scrap lead in the UK, Ms Burrage said, and the abundance of lead acid batteries available for recycling is “keeping a lid on their price” within a strong domestic market.

Ms Burrage also said there was “a good supply and demand for aluminium”, although high prices on the LME have given rise to a slight supply shortage on the higher grades.

The stand-off between Russia and the West has added fuel to the fire

  • Dhawal Shah, president of the BIR’s non-ferrous metals division

Hyper-volatility

Meanwhile, Dhawal Shah, president of the BIR’s non-ferrous metals division, warned that “hyper-volatility” could become a “highly integral part” of global business.

Dhawal Shah is president of the BIR’s non-ferrous metals division (picture: BIR)

Mr Shah said: “The world’s nemesis is no longer Covid; it’s now global inflation which is creating turmoil across continents.

“The stand-off between Russia and the Western World over Ukraine has only added fuel to the fire.

“Since the restarting of economies, demand for natural gas – and the skewed generation/distribution thereof – has not only challenged industries but has also impacted daily lives with the high costs of consumables and their supply challenges.

“Boom-and-bust cycles are witnessed in unprecedented short periods.”

Mr Shah said the container shipping industry had “continued to keep global foreign trade on a wing and a prayer” due to “inadequate logistical infrastructure” and equipment availability.

He added that a surge in climate change-related natural disasters in the last 12 months had only “intensified the chaos and uncertainty”.

China

Meanwhile, Ma Hongchang, the BIR’s regional recycling expert for China, said Chinese imports of scrap and recycled copper grew “significantly” last year.

Mr Hongchang said imported volumes were thought to have increased by 520,000 or 86% between January and October 2021.

Since November 2019, scrap and recycled copper has been subject to a zero-import tariff in China, with no pre-shipment inspection or import approval required and no limitations on the port of arrival.

Mr Hongchang estimates that China will recover 2.55 million tonnes of copper scrap in 2022.

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