Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of MRW, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

When regulations can become trade barriers

Five years after the 2008 economic crash, recyclers around the world may be finding their feet again, but they claim to face another fundamental challenge: protectionism.

Barriers to free trade was overwhelmingly the main theme when I sat in on the latest half-yearly gathering of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).  

Many delegates and speakers in Warsaw had specific national examples: import/export restrictions; quality controls; licence requirements; bureaucracy.

It would be surprising if the BIR did not kick up a stink about such restrictions: its mission says it “promotes materials recycling, and facilitates free and fair trade of recyclables in a sustainable and competitive world economy”.

It is clear that some members are struggling to carry out such trade when powerful interests - such as steel mills - can persuade their politicians to take steps to protect those industries.

I attended one session in Warsaw in which Marcel Genet, founder and manager of French consulting firm Laplace Conseil, presented the results of a study showing the economic significance to the EU of electric arc furnaces (EAF) using scrap metal: he calculated a trade surplus of £11bn a year.

But Genet said this industry was now “threatened with new regulations and restrictions” when the authorities should “strongly favour” scrap processing and EAF because they offered substantial benefits. It was a persuasive presentation.

At its core was what seemed to be rock-solid data. But it is not always that definitive. Data on the UK’s capacity for treating waste in the future, for example, can produce widely different conclusions and heated debate.

As the CIWM’s Steve Lee tells her: “We are an industry awash with numbers, but incredibly short on information.”

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.