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Feature: scrap set to rebound

The European Commission is to clarify 'when waste ceases to be a waste' for a limited number of streams, beginning the exercise with steel scrap.

The announcement was made by EFR president Christian Rubach at the BIR World Recycling Convention's ferrous division meeting.

During the meeting, held in Barcelona in May, Rubach said that facts and figures, as well as assessments of the financial impact of the waste stigma on the scrap industry, are to be collected by ERF ready for presentation to the Commission and member states on June 8.

Reporting on the situation in Germany, Anton Van Genuchten of TSR said the EU's scrap trade balance had been improved by last year's admission of countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The EU imported 8.2 million tonnes of ferrous scrap in 2004 while exporting 9.5 million tonnes. Although he said that demand for scrap had reversed in recent months, Van Genuchten added that "the current state of panic" in the scrap market was unlikely to last and that prices "could be bottoming out in the summer".

Uncertainty

The stainless steel and special alloys committee was told that recent months had thrown up "risks and uncertainty" in the form of US dollar weakness, oil price increases, variable demand and nickel supply/scrap availability issues.

Committee chairman Sandro Giuliani said: "European steelworks have had to face a weakening market situation as well as some erosion in prices since the beginning of 2005. There had already been signs of a possible slowdown in orders for the mills."

According to reports from Barry Hunter of Hunter BenMet, forward orders for new business were not flowing in the US. He told delegates: "Clear negatives expressed for the European economy, a reduction in US car sales, a non-aggressive Chinese buying market, the potential for a stronger dollar, increased interest rates and everything being written about metals, would give support to reduced buying and maintaining extremely tight inventory controls."

Stuart Freilich of Universal Metal said that military requirements for new/upgraded equipment and spare or replacement parts would help underpin demand for high-temperature alloys, titanium alloys and refractory metals throughout 2006 and 2007. The market for these materials would also be boosted by increases in passenger movements and freight business.

The scrap titanium market had been "spectacular" since the previous BIR convention last October, with prices virtually tripling in the case of 90-6-4 revert material.

"This was all to change in late April," said Freilich, "when the steelworks did not place bids for their next quarter ferro titanium requirements. Traders, especially from the Ukraine region, panicked and began selling ferro titanium at below market, causing the market to fall to today's levels."

Reporting on the Indian market for the plastics committee meeting, Surendra Borad of Belgium-based Gemini sought to dispel the notion in Europe and the US that electronic scrap was being exported to India. "There is not a single factory which is equipped with the manual or mechanical infrastructure to sort

out electronic scrap, and the authorities will not permit the import of electronics which are mixed with metal," he said. Commenting on the fact that economic viability generally prevented India from importing anything other than LDPE scrap, he added that overall, "the future of plastics scrap in India is not as prom

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