Metal recyclers counter calls for export restrictions

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A row has erupted between two major ferrous bodies over the export of recovered material.

The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) described elements of a recent report by UK Steel as “surprising” and “perplexing”.

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The manufacturers’ body produced a paper shortly before Christmas calling for policy measures to discourage export of scrap ferrous metal.

Steel scrap: a strategic raw material for net zero steel urged ministers to ban firms from sending recovered material to countries with “lower environmental standards” and to remove subsidies available through export packaging recovery notes.

“The future of the steel sector in the UK depends on its ability to decarbonise, and steel scrap is central to this ambition,” said the report.

“Although the UK sits on a significant supply of this critical secondary raw material, we currently export 80 per cent of our scrap steel.”

But the BMRA warned against restrictions on sending recovered metal abroad, saying such a move could leave up to 3m tonnes per year “without a home”.

“That could have a catastrophic negative impact on the price of scrap and jeopardise the viability of many metal recyclers,” added the body.

The BMRA insisted current regulations only allowed waste to be shipped to countries operating to equivalent standards to those found in the UK and EU.

“It is surprising that UK Steel raises both environmental and social concerns about export markets, yet the UK is content to import from said countries,” added the recyclers’ body.

“There is also an assumption that exporting what it terms ‘lower quality scrap’ means that non-ferrous metals within that load are not recovered. This is perplexing as no matter where they operate, steel mills do not want large residual volumes in the mix.”

The BMRA concluded: “Any impediment to exporting could cause severe economic impact to the UK metals recycling sector, which could not only see the UK steel industry having to import scrap, but could reduce UK Steel’s net zero ambitions to ruins.”