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2014 - Björn Grufman, president, BIR

BIR and the world recycling industry will enter 2014 confronted by some all-too-familiar issues: difficult trading conditions characterised by more limited availability and by downward pressure on margins; the relatively high value of scrap metals, notably copper, making them a target for thieves and fraudsters; and the ever-developing threat of protectionism to free and fair trade.

In a bid to protect the free international movement of our industry’s materials, BIR recently commissioned a study by French consultancy Laplace Conseil which revealed steel scrap export restrictions could cost the EU scrap collection and processing industry perhaps 50,000 jobs while delivering only a comparatively tiny benefit to Europe’s steel exporters. In 2014, BIR will endeavour to monitor protectionist moves around the world and be prepared to mount a sturdy defence of free and fair trade using such well-founded and incontrovertible data.

In this context, BIR’s so-called “Statistical Observatory” will continue to conduct, commission and propose new studies that will enable the recycling industry to support its arguments with hard data, especially when faced with proposals or actual legislation that could have unintended and counter-productive consequences.

BIR will also continue to use a variety of weapons - including the services of the crime-fighting International Maritime Bureau - to combat the growing global menace of scrap theft and fraud by highlighting, for example, hot spots for thefts from international containers.

On the upside, analysts are predicting that 2014 could be a better year economically for many parts of the world, notably Europe. This should lead to increased purchasing of new products and increased flows of discarded products into the recycling loop. Hopefully, scrap processors - some of whom have seen their volumes fall to as low as half the norm this year - will notice an improvement in material flows and subsequently margins.

Furthermore, it is hoped that elections in India will promote greater stability and optimism in a country which is a major consumer of recyclables from around the world. And what about major recyclables importer China? Although its much-publicised “Green Fence” import quality controls programme was brought to an end in late 2013, there is no reason to believe the country will relax its strict import standards in 2014 and beyond. Meanwhile, there is evidence to suggest other leading consuming countries in Asia - notably India and Indonesia - are looking to bring in tighter import quality controls.

For BIR, 2014 is already guaranteed to be a red-letter year as our flagship June Convention in Miami is being designed to appeal directly, for the first time, to members and prospective members in Latin America - a region where we perceive healthy opportunities for the continued growth of our world organisation. BIR’s membership has expanded annually despite the economic downturn of recent years and every sign points to a continuation of this trend in 2014.

Björn Grufman, BIR president

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