BIR Autumn Round-Tables: Free Trade is Key

BIR’s President Björn Grufman and Executive Director Alexandre Delacoux say the association will focus much of its attention on ensuring free trade of recyclables.

October 28, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
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From left, BIR President Björn Grufman and Executive Director Alexandre Delacoux.

During a meeting with the trade press, Björn Grufman of Sweden-based Metallvärden AB and president of the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), stressed that ensuring free trade between countries is a key way to strengthen the scrap recycling industry.

The challenges of ensuring that individual countries do not put in place policies, including tariffs, taxes and other policies that would restrict the flow of scrap recyclables from point of generation and processing to end markets, is even more important as scrap metal firms are only now working through significant economic problems that have created their own challenges in the industry, he said.

Grufman referred to the South African government's recent initiative to pass a policy that would restrict the export of scrap metal from the country.

“Lots of companies are suffering from economic problems and we are fighting. The other side, consumers, also are having a tough time. They want to protect their business, which could mean keeping more of the scrap from being exported,” Grufman said.

To overcome the perception about scrap metal recyclers, Grufman added, “If I have the choice, at the same price to sell at a Swedish mill or export, of course I will keep it home. No doubt about it. But if it is more than 10 percent, I will take the chance. This is a huge problem for our industry now as they try to protect the domestic industry.”

While policies are being developed in different countries that could make it more difficult to export scrap metal, Grufman stressed, “We must keep the free flow of material."

“BIR will always stand up for free and fair trade," said Grufman. "Whatever the argument, free must be best for industry, must be best for consumers, must be best for the globe. We must be for free and fair trade. BIR will always stand up for free trade. We must stand up for free trade.”

Following an overview of the challenges, Grufman formally introduced Alexandre Delacoux as the BIR’s new executive director. Delacoux noted that in his role he plans to aggressively boost the association’s membership ranks, including growing its position in South America.

Toward this end, one of the association's first steps will be holding its Spring 2014 World Recycling Convention in Miami, which will offer a more significant opportunity to attract South American attendees.

Another step the BIR has taken to boost its visibility in the South American market has been the move by the association to translate some of its pages to Spanish in addition to Chinese.

“We are reaching 920 members in 74 countries. Entering new associations. We fulfill an important role, especially in difficult economic situations,” Delacoux said. He also noted that one of his key roles will be to work to boost the BIR's statistical information to help convey the importance of the industry. This data, Delacoux points out, can help bolster the fact that free and open trade is a far better way to strengthen an economy than a protectionist policy.

The 2013 BIR World Recycling Convention Autumn Round-Table Sessions were held in Warsaw Oct. 28-29.