Impact of Coronavirus on recycling industry: Largely “business as usual” to date

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BIR has collated some feedback regarding the impact of the Coronavirus on the international recycling industry.

Although the situation remains fluid and under constant review, scrap trading operations appear to have been largely unaffected thus far by the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the Presidents and Chairmen of the BIR world recycling organization’s various commodity divisions and committees.

From the non-ferrous metals perspective, business with Asian markets slowed in February but there has been no significant disruption to movements of material. On the plus side, some Chinese provinces are gradually reopening; however, migrant workers have not been able as yet to return to their previous posts because of provincial border controls.

On the USA/Mexico border, there has been no observable impact on the availability of, and demand for, non-ferrous scrap; even shipments to Asia have not been affected. As for metal coming from Asia, some minor delays have been experienced owing to shipping lines altering their sailing schedules in response to some port disruption claimed to be related to the Coronavirus. Meanwhile, some manufacturing operations on the USA/Mexico border are starting to report a slowdown in their activities owing to a shortage of parts and components that would normally be sourced from China. The extent to which this might affect scrap generation and demand has yet to be seen.

Some sellers of ferrous scrap are understood to have encountered issues on the container side, and now there are more restrictions on bulk vessels with regard to 14-day health certificates before a ship can berth. As for e-scrap, no problems have been reported to date in terms of the virus affecting trade or the loading of ships. However, business travel – for meetings with suppliers and clients, etc. – has been suspended in many instances.

To date, the plastics industry in Europe has experienced only a few problems relating to the Coronavirus, but the market is seeing more and more uncertainty. Many trade shows and other events have already been cancelled and the situation will worsen if companies are forced to close their doors owing to infections.

The tyre and rubber recycling sector also reports the gradual reopening of China while emphasizing that inland logistics – from ports to yards on the country’s mainland – are still very much affected by the virus. On a positive note, most previously-stuck containers have benefitted from the waiving of demurrage and detention charges. Clients are very slow to place new orders in China whereas the situation in South and South East Asia is more or less normal. In Europe, meanwhile, supply and demand for either plastics or rubber have not really been affected so far.

While no impact has been reported to date on the textiles recycling industry, market participants fear that collection volumes will decrease if the situation does not improve. Also, there is a risk of a decline in demand from Africa and other markets. To reiterate, BIR will continue to monitor the situation with regard to the virus and will alert members to any information specifically relevant to their operations.

Source: Bureau of International Recycling (BIR)