UK Non-Ferrous Metals Trade ‘Buoyant’

The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has stated that the UK non-ferrous metals recycling trade is in a healthy state. Let’s Recycle reports that worldwide demand is strong, despite a predictable post-Christmas lull, and there is a positive outlook for the year ahead.

BIR is an international trade association for the recycling trade, and is based in Brussels. As well as non-ferrous metals, it represents iron and steel, paper and textiles, special alloys, plastics, tyres and rubber, and E-scrap. It represents more than 30,000 companies around the world, from nearly 70 countries.

Susie Burrage, managing director of Chesham-based metal recycler Recycled Products Ltd, and a board member of the BIR’s non-ferrous metals division, said: “Overall, healthy concluding financial reports for 2021 and continuing buoyant LME prices are making UK non-ferrous traders and merchants optimistic for 2022.”

She added: “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.”

Despite the overall optimism, some commentators have sounded a note of caution. The destabilising ripples of the pandemic continue to be felt across the sector, which has caused issues with supply and logistics. The volatile situation in Eastern Europe is also currently of concern, according to the latest BIR news report.

Rising costs for energy, plus record levels of inflation are also having an impact across all industrial sectors around the world. The rising cost of scrap transportation, which is exacerbated by the shortage of shipping containers and backlogs at ports, is also of concern in many areas.

Dhawal Shah, president of the BIR’s non-ferrous metals division, said: “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.

Mr Shah also commented that the current logistical infrastructure was inadequate, and that the increasing frequency of extreme weather events triggered by climate change was another difficulty for the trade. He added: “Boom-and-bust cycles are witnessed in unprecedented short periods.”

Despite the significant challenges that the recycling sector faces, Ms Burrage said that there was good demand for copper and brass, particularly from China. There was also a good supply and demand for aluminium and lead in the UK.

According to BIR, the most commonly used non-ferrous metals are aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, titanium, cobalt, chromium and precious metals. Non-ferrous scrap is recovered and used for purposes such as smelting and ingot making. Recovering and recycling metals is sustainable, economical, and energy efficient.

The recycling of non-ferrous metals involves a process of sorting and dismantling, to separate them from each other and other materials. The scrap is then baled, or compacted into large blocks for transportation. It will then undergo a process of shearing, shredding, further separation, and melting for transformation into ingots or further processing.


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