Conditions within a trade policy under consideration by the European Parliament have the potential to seize up that region’s cross-border trading in recyclables. Numerous panelists at the 2022 Paper & Plastic Recycling Conference Europe, held in mid-November in Rotterdam, said the recycling industry needed to raise its voice to get the attention of policymakers.
Marc Ehrlich, CEO of Switzerland-based trading firm VIPA Lausanne, said pending waste regulations being considered by the European Parliament Environment Committee is not specifically a ban on exporting paper and plastic scrap, “but it will become much more difficult to export.”
As written currently, the new regulation would ask a nation receiving a recovered paper from Europe, such as India, to “demonstrate it has a recycling system similar to Europe,” said Ehrlich. There is little clarity, he commented, as to who makes the assessments of overseas systems or what a notional audit would look like. “We don’t have the criteria at the moment,” said Ehrlich.
Ehrlich urged delegates to contact their representatives in the European Parliament, including the 50 or so on the Environment Committee. “Tell them your recycling system [in Europe] will collapse because you don’t know what you’re doing,” he advised his fellow recyclers to say directly to the elected officials. “You have to do that today; no one has done it before you,” he urged.
Ehrlich also said the paper and metals sectors should be removed from any such waste directives: “Take out the non-problematic materials: recovered paper and metals,” he stated. “Sorry, but plastic will not be well received. They have only plastic in mind,” Ehrlich said of those seeking export bans.
Shailesh Gothal of Belgium-based Gemini Corp. said as more plastic scrap stays in Europe, it gives recyclers there an “opportunity to build capacity.” With a current plastic recycling rate of 16 percent in Europe, “We have a lot to do,” added Gothal.
Shipping lines also seem to be preparing for the end of large-scale plastic scrap shipping, said Gothal, with lines reducing space allocations for plastic scrap leaving European ports.
Robert Powell of United Kingdom-based Miro Logistics said global container port congestion that characterized much of 2021 and the first half of 2022 is “easing to over.”
Rates being charged by shippers also have declined from 50 to 70 percent and “the market is still softening,” said Powell. Recyclers shipping containers to the Far East have access to “pretty much unlimited” capacity, he remarked, and container bookings to India are “not a problem at the moment.”
Powell said plastic scrap shippers are “best off if you also have other commodities” to ship. He also recommended plastic exporters get the destination shipping office “on board with acceptance” to ease shipping line fears over container abandonment.
The panelists, including moderator Simon Ellin of the U.K.-based Recycling Association, agreed that the pending waste directive threatening trading opportunities in Europe is tied in part to recyclers and traders using the word “waste” attached to the commodities they trade, such as “waste paper.” Stated Powell, “The word ‘waste’ is the wrong word to be using. When I talk to shipping lines, I use the word ‘recyclables’”
The 2022 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe event was Nov. 15-16 at the Hilton Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
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