ATF Professional recently spoke to Antonia Grey, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the BMRA, about her role within the organisation, what BMRA’s intentions are this year, including what involvement they have with their counterparts around the world, and the challenges that lie ahead for the metals recycling sector.
I joined the BMRA over five and a half years ago. I am a journalist by training, but I was looking for a new challenge. Initially, I came on board to develop a new website alongside a communications strategy, but my role quickly evolved also to encompass public affairs and policy. Now my job sees me working closely with our Technical Director, Howard Bluck, endeavouring to help shape and inform Governmental policy decisions. This can be through actively engaging with Ministers, MPs and regulatory bodies or by crafting responses to consultations.
The metals recycling sector is facing a very challenging year. The removal of our entitlement to use red diesel as of 1 April in the face of increasing electricity costs is of great concern. The impact on the very sector the Government is looking to help deliver on its circular economy ambitions will be significant indeed. We have repeatedly pointed out that the ambitions behind the move – to bring about parity with “other road users” and to push us into cleaner alternatives – will not be achieved. Firstly, unlike farm equipment which has retained its exemption, our plant is not used on the road. Secondly, cleaner alternatives do not yet exist, so we will have to continue to use diesel, which the Government knows, and which is why the BMRA is calling the removal of our entitlement, a stealth tax by any other name.
This year, we will continue to run our cable and metal shredder residue waste classification projects. We are just about to start another round of testing for the MSR project, and we hope to publish the results of these findings later in the year. However, with moves to lower thresholds for legacy additives, such as flame retardants being lobbied at the Stockholm Convention and within the European Commission, it looks likely that waste characterisation will with us for some time.
And then there are plastics, which I appreciate is a little odd coming from an Association representing metal recyclers. However, through their work processing end-of-life vehicles and waste electrical and electronic equipment, some 660,000 tonnes of durable plastics every year is available for recycling. With the international list of banned legacy additives in plastics growing, including brominated flame retardants, we have to look at alternative recovery options and markets for members.
Indeed, given most decisions around waste are taken outside of the UK, and as we export over 80% of all our arisings, the BMRA cannot afford to only focus on UK-led interventions and policies. Policies and decisions made on the European and International stage, such as through the Stockholm/Basel Conventions or more locally like Operation National Sword in China, can significantly impact our export business.
With that in mind, we have built strong relationships with our counterparts in other countries such as ISRI in the USA and are part of both the Bureau for International Recycling and the European Confederation of Recycling Industries (EuRIC). In fact, we are a founding member of EuRIC and currently hold Board positions while sitting on the majority of its working groups. We also regularly attend meetings with senior Commission officials and act as technical experts at CEN/CENELEC and Commission-led working groups.
Overall though, I would say that we are in an enviable position; metal is a permanent material which means it can be endlessly recycled. I think that puts us at the heart of any move towards circularity. We are almost the driver if you will.
As the steel industry moves towards using more Electric Arc Furnaces, innovation will be key – on both sides. As innovation moves the technology forwards, I think our processing and sorting ability will grow. At the same time, I think technologies within the end-users will change, enabling them to remove tramp materials from their process. Whilst we are moving towards this end goal, I think the relationship between us will strengthen, and the critical role metal recyclers play in reducing the need for mining primary ore will be better understood. Or at least I hope so.
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