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What will happen to recycling? The year ahead according to BIR experts

By Paul Sanderson and

John McKenna

Without looking into a crystal ball, it can be difficult to predict what will happen in the world of recycling. But a team of experts came together at the Bureau of International Recycling round-table meeting in London recently to give an indication of what may happen in the short-term to recycling markets.

One sector in particular is suffering across Europe. Textile recycling is having one of its worst years ever, although it has been in the doldrums for a while.

Indeed, at BIR, delegates called on national and European politicians to support the ailing industry.

In a statement, the BIR Textile Board said: The textile recycling industry needs immediate political support, recognition and also worldwide free trade.

The market for all recovered textiles has decreased considerably across Europe recently. In the UK, Terimpex managing director Terry Ralph said that traders were despondent due to the pressure placed on the textiles sector by petty bureaucracy.

Schepke Konzepte divisional president Frithjof Schepke added that the situation across Europe remained dire. He said: I am not sure that textile recycling has a future along current lines in Europe. Perhaps the only way for us to continue is to relocate to cheap-wage countries where we are not hedged about by red tape or denied access to certain markets.

At the plastics round table, chairman Peter Daalder was concerned that inconsistent legislation was creating trade barriers for importers and exporters.

He called for the creation of a standard international item list to replace the current system where the definition of recyclable plastic varies from country to country.

He said: We need an item list for imports and exports so customs officers can easily identify plastics as either rubbish or recyclable plastic.

The progress on the compilation of this list will be announced at BIRs next convention in Barcelona in May 2005.

The gloom was not lifted in the non-ferrous round-table, where high prices could not be taken advantage of because of lack of supply. This situation is likely to continue in 2005 and possibly beyond, according to experts in the round-table.

The high price of ferrous scrap was predicted to continue long into next year.

This is thanks to prolific worldwide steel production, which will, for the first time in history, pass the one billion tonne mark by the end of the financial year.

Merchant scrap is an important resource for steel producers, but supply shows no signs of increasing to meet the massive demand.

Iron and Steel Statistics Bureau (ISSB) operations director Steve Mackrell said an additional 100 million tonnes of merchant scrap is needed over the next six years if the global steel trade is to maintain it current growth rate.

Changes are also expected for fridge recycling in the next year. At the International Environment Councils meeting, members heard how the UK and Irelands market needed investment and guidance to avoid slipping into chaos.

M Baker Recycling director Andrew Slaney said although the fridge mountain has disappeared, the coordination of fridge recycling could be better organised.

He cited National Recycling award winner the All-Island Fridge Project as an example of how fridge recycling can be successful when local authorities and recycling firms work in partnership.

Looking further into the future, Slaney said: Ozone depleting substance (ODS) fridges will dry up.

CFC fridges are no longer being made in the EU and the hydrocarbon gas now being used has a global warming potential lower than 15.

This means that recyclers are not obliged to undertake controlled removal of fridge gases.

Slaney added: There is no environmental impact in treating hydrocarbons. This may even increase global warming from the energy used and the effects of transporting fridges.

The only value likely to be left in fridge recycling is for

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