The world’s recycling industry has been preparing changes to operations following the ease of shutdown restrictions across global networks.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has collected feedback on the impact of the virus around the world, with specific regard to how it is affecting the recycling industry.
The BIR said in a statement that plastics recyclers face the challenge of low selling prices for their materials, while suppliers are unable to reduce their own selling prices owing to the high cost of shipping and the impact on availability of the lockdowns in exporting countries.
“The situation will improve only when all countries lift their lockdowns and resume their economic activities as before the COVID-19 outbreak,” the BIR stated.
According to the BIR’s statement, Asia’s demand for recycled materials is at only 30-40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels amid a slowdown in volumes requested by the plastics manufacturing industry and cancellation of overseas orders.
Recycling units in Europe have remained open throughout the crisis owing to their crucial role in waste management.
BIR stated that Italy’s metals sector reopened on May 4, which will help improve business in the waste sector as operations resume following many weeks of lockdown.
Europe’s recycling industry, especially in Italy, has sustained high costs through guaranteeing to stay open during the lockdown despite very low levels of business.
BIR stated that ASSOFERMET, UNIRIMA and ASSORIMAP, Italy’s three national associations covering recycling commodities, have drafted a letter to the government to reinforce this message and to call for a change of mindset now that the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the essential nature of recycling and of waste management as a whole.
According to the BIR’s research, 73 per cent of recycling centres have remained open to receive materials in France.
Specific to recovered paper, mills in France are expected to encounter small shortages in May despite ongoing collection and sorting activities.
In the UK, the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has already issued an instruction for the reopening of local authority household waste and recycling centres.
“Reopening could provide a minor boost for some larger metal recyclers with contracts to collect the household metals gathered at these sites,” the BIR stated.
“The BMRA has advocated the reopening of these centres to counter increased dumping of large domestic appliances and to avoid the fire risk posed to metal recyclers by householders concealing small waste electrical and electronic equipment in bins collected from homes.”
Recyclers in the Middle East have returned to operation but the flow of scrap is less than 20 per cent of the norm.
“All ports are operating normally and exports are continuing to move to countries that can accept material,” the BIR stated.
“Social distancing must continue to be observed while manpower allowed on recycling premises is reduced and strict health & safety controls apply.”