An unusual spring

March 10, 2014
Lisa McKenna

Lisa McKenna


Writing to you in early March from the still very wintery Northern U.S., my colleagues and I are nonetheless preparing for what looks to be a busy and rewarding series of meetings and shows in the months ahead.

While winter conditions here often have been bitterly cold, I know that recyclers in Europe also are experiencing continued extreme weather patterns of their own, usually involving strangely high temperatures, snows, rains and storms. Interestingly, the weather anomalies only seemed to keep the commodities markets close to where they were at the end of 2013.

While the markets haven’t appeared to move much as of this writing, many issues seem to be brewing for recyclers to talk about when they gather at one of the industry events this spring.

First and foremost is that the European economy officially has recovered as indicated by positive growth figures recorded in 2013. The turnaround is moving slowly, but recyclers can at least be optimistic about the fact that consumer confidence seems to have returned. As such, it should bring a return of healthy trading and processing activities eventually.

Another issue at the moment, which is related to the lacklustre economy, involves increasing instances or discussions surrounding protectionist measures. With business conditions still difficult for many scrap consumers and scrap recycling companies alike, the fight for available supply has apparently induced some companies to adopt a more defensive stance. The actions include seeking governmental assistance in procuring raw materials and preventing domestic feedstocks from being sold to export customers.

Discussions with European recyclers at the forefront of this issue illustrate the industry’s perspective quite well: Protectionist policies might help scrap consumers temporarily, but they won’t do any good for the already beleaguered scrap recycling sector. “Catastrophic,” was one of the words used to describe the result, should raw materials trade restrictions get implemented within the European Union, where—adding insult to injury—scrap is still often regulated as waste.

Even some scrap consumers will admit that trusted suppliers could be put out of business if protectionist measures are implemented.

Recyclers doing business on an international scale should prepare to stay involved in this developing issue, particularly as the economy continues to turn around.

As my research indicates, there are many recycling organizations to consult for help and further information. There are also plenty of venues to make the industry’s points heard.