LONDON The European
Commissions proposal to categorize copper scrap as waste
unless it is at least 98-percent pure copper represents a
missed opportunity to reduce the administrative burden of
treating and trading scrap in the European Union, according to
scrap processors and traders.
But it is a victory for
secondary producers who believe, rightly or wrongly, that a
looser threshold would lead to a surge in scrap exports from
For the Bureau of International
Recycling (BIR), Brussels, and the British Metals Recycling
Association (BMRA), Brampton, England, the decision to
recommend a 2-percent foreign materials limit vs. the 5-percent
threshold they had lobbied for is maddening and, according to
BIR estimates, will mean that about 90 to 95 percent of the
copper scrap processed by members and trade will continue to be
classified as waste.
Both the BIR and BMRA welcome
the principle of the new end-of-waste directive but bemoan its
impractical stringency, they told AMM sister
publication Metal Bulletin this past week.
"The BIR has always felt that
material that leaves the scrapyard after being processed should
be treated as a non-waste material. We are very happy to see
that at last, at an E.U. level, the authorities have accepted
this principle," BIR director-general Francis Veys said. "But,
nevertheless, we find the recommendation on copper scrap
unexciting because this 2-percent requirement is absolutely not
realistic. Were happy with the principle, but
disappointed with the percentage. ... Its a missed
The recycling associations have
been heavily involved in the technical working group that has
guided the European Commissions Joint Research Centre in
creating the proposed directive, but since the first meeting of
the group in 2010 their calls for a 5-percent tolerance have
been resisted by scrap consumers in Europe.
During two meetings at the
Seville offices of the Institute for Prospective Technological
Studies (IPTS) in 2010, each side argued for outcomes that were
diametrically opposed: the associations hoped, ideally, that
the designation of scrap as waste would end and, at the least,
that the directive would remove that classification for the
high-value forms of scrap they commonly trade.
By contrast, scrap consumers
would ideally have preferred that alleven the
purestforms of scrap would continue to be treated as
waste, and expressed strong resistance to proposals to upturn
this status quo.
"Its no secret that there
has been a degree of resistance to the principles of
end-of-waste from some producer, or scrap consumer, groups. In
my mind their fears are misplaced, but it appears they have
lobbied effectively to establish the threshold at 2 percent,"
BMRA director-general Ian Hetherington told Metal
"The reason for smelters to want
a high threshold is that, as users of raw materials, they have
every interest in it continuing to be called waste because it
gives them better visibility over where the material comes from
and they feel it will prevent the movement of waste
out of Europe, which is pure paranoia," Veys said.
"Its interesting that the
glass industry, which has engaged much more with the principle
of end-of-waste regulations, has looked at a lower threshold.
If you bear in mind that this is environmental legislation, it
seems strange to me that glass would need to meet a lower
threshold for foreign materials than copper scrap,"
In its earlier ruling on
end-of-waste criteria for aluminum scrap, the commission
decided on a 5-percent threshold, apparently without great
objection from European secondary producers.
With such precedents in place,
the decision to back a 2-percent limit for copper scrap has
prompted organizations like the BIR to level some highly
charged complaints against the commission and European
"The copper industry in Europe
is very much protectionist in nature," Veys said.
"In aluminum or steel, a
5-percent threshold was viewed as acceptable because
structurally production capacity in Europe is declining. But
with copper, we know that even at the first meeting in Seville
the industry was questioning the whole principle of
end-of-waste copper scrap," he said.
"They were opposed to it because
they thought they would lose raw materials to export markets,
which isnt true. Material will continue to leave Europe,
whether its called waste or a product, because
thats where the demand is and because there are not
enough smelting capacities in the E.U. It is more difficult if
it is called waste, but it will continue to move because it is
a commodity," Veys said.
The proposed proposal has also
drawn flak from European metals trade and recycling federation
Eurometrec, which has called the 2-percent limit "totally
unrealistic" and has lobbied for the foreign material tolerance
to be raised to 5 percent of total scrap weight (amm.com, Jan. 18).
A version of this article
was first published by AMM sister publication Metal