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International climate still tough for recyclers

The global picture for recycling remains tough with the manufacturing industries in major economies at least 30% down on 2008 and recyclers competing for fewer materials, the president of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has said.

Bjorn Grufman

Bjorn Grufman called it “tough times” at a briefing as 900 delegates from 54 countries gathered in Paris for the two-day BIR World Recycling Convention.

The president said it was still particularly challenging for ferrous markets as developed countries attempted to get their economies back to pre-global-crash levels. 

“Where is the [world] economy going? We have seen a recovery but will it stay like this? We can see signs – and proof – of a recovery in the United States but we haven’t seen that in Europe yet.”

Grufman said one of the challenges for the rest of the world was the amount of secondary materials, particularly rebar steel, coming on the market from China “on a scale we have not seen before”.

BIR director-general Alexander Delacoux, who had been on a recent visit to China, said he felt the price of steel leaving that country was at “almost dubious levels”.

On a brighter note, Grufman praised the BIR’s technical director Ross Bartley for standing up for its members on the issue of goods needing repair or treatment for reuse being sent to other countries.

This activity is covered by the ‘Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal’, a treaty which regulates exports from developed to less developed countries.

The validity of warranties offered by recyclers on products being exported for repair or reuse had been challenged by primary manufacturers, who had originally lobbied for only their own warranties to be acceptable under the convention.

But Bartley said the recyclers’ warranties were a form of contract and stood up in law. BIR challenged the manufacturers’ position at a recent meeting and recyclers’ warranties were now part of the continuing discussions.

The BIR argues that if it is more cost-effective to export items needing reuse or repair, then it should be allowed.

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