Recyclers seek EU clarity in scrap-is-waste debate
LONDON - Britains metals recyclers have thrashed out a definition of what scrap can be classed as waste with the Environment Agency 18 months after the two sides war of words in the UK High Court.
Yesterday the Agency and Britains scrap recycling associations launched a joint plain-speaking guide clarifying the 1998 court judgment in the case brought by the international scrap industry against the Agency over when scrap is waste. But internationally the scrap industry is battling to free itself from the costly legal constraints of being termed waste handlers and trade representatives in London for the launch said they hoped Mondays document would spearhead a European campaign to follow the UK line.
"We in the industry felt that we could not live with this uncertain situation, unsure whether or not we were handling waste or indeed whether we would inadvertantly be breaking the law," said Patrick Neenan of the British Metals Federation, representing the ferrous scrap recycling sector.
The document removes doubts as to when scrap metal is waste and when it is a raw material, and reduced unnecesary costs and potential liability burdens for recylers, he said. Each year the British metals recycling industry handles nine million tonnes of ferrous and one million tonnes of non-ferrous scrap worth an estimated 3.5 billion pounds, providing direct and indirect employment to 150,000 people. "We now have a guidance document which confirms the status of recycling as being part of the manufacturing sectors, whilst at the same time ensuring that the fabric of the environment in which we operate is protected," Neenan said. He added that from a European industry perspective it was important to have a legal ruling within a major member state which could be used to influence policy makers within the European Commission and Parliament where the general view remains that all scrap metal is regarded as waste until it enters a furnace or smelter.
Tony Bird, of the European Recycling Federation, said the UK document would now be circulated to metal reyclers throughout the European Union so they could lobby their lawmakers to clarify the rules in the way the UK had done. Bird said the UK definitions were also the norm in Canada, the United States, Japan, and only the EU was out of step. The British metals recycling industry processes more scrap metal than it can consume and the surplus of around four million tonnes is exported. Steve Lee of the Environment Agency said he recognised that the interpretation of waste was not a straight forward issue under the law, but this plain speaking document would have inspectors and recyclers looking at metal in the same way.
Francis Veys, director general of the BIR international recycling federation, said the Commission was aware of the British document and was working on claryfying the EUs waste definitions on a case by case approach. "I am hopeful that what we have here could serve as an example to other member states...It
is clear the Brussels is the guardian of legislation, but member states can change the rules."
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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