In the face of the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the recycling industry is being forced to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances around the world.
Waste management is an essential activity
Waste management and decontamination activities are included in the list of essential activities decreed by the government of Spain during this State of Alert for the COVID-19 crisis.
In particular, the Royal Decree-Law governing recoverable paid leave for workers in non-essential services states in point 18 of its annex that this rule shall not apply “to workers providing services in the collection, management and treatment of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste, waste water collection and treatment, decontamination activities and other waste management services and the transport and removal of by-products”.
Waste management is therefore considered essential and workers who are unable to work remotely by teleworking must attend to their workplaces.
The demands of the European recycling industry
This resolution is in line with the demand of the European Recycling Industries Confederation, EuRIC, which had called on the EU and the Member States to ensure this activity and the safety of its workers by recognising its status as an essential and critical activity, both for the benefit of health and the environment as well as for its strategic role in the supply of essential secondary raw material for the various sectors which also maintain their activity and which in some cases are directly involved in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, EuRIC asks the competent authorities for a number of additional measures:
- That workers involved in the collection, transport and treatment of waste are provided with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).
- More flexible timetable, including on Sundays, so that some companies can continue to operate.
- The repeal of certain rules on logistics and trade to protect the cross-border movement of secondary raw materials.
- Derogations allowing for increased storage capacity by waste managers, since in the countries most affected by COVID-19 the closure of production facilities is leading to a sharp decrease in demand.
- State aid and support schemes for firms in financial difficulties such as temporary tax exemptions.
Impact of the COVID-19 on the international recycling market
Despite some recovery in transports in China, there are many containers trapped inside the system, increasingly in other parts of the world.
In the ferrous scrap sector, new quarantine measures for ship crews are delaying some shipments. For non-ferrous scrap, both copper and aluminium have lost more than 10% of their value in a period of only 30 days.
In the stainless steel and electronic waste sectors (e-waste), the interruption of the sale of products to private individuals is expected to have a huge economic impact.
As regards plastic, in recent weeks commercial activity in Europe has been maintained at stable prices and a normal level of demand. However, starting this week a sharp decline in demand is expected as a result of restrictions implemented in countries such as France, Italy and Spain. The fall in oil prices is also encouraging a trend towards cheap purchasing that will make recovery difficult.
In the Scrap Tyres (TDF) sector, there is great uncertainty in the coming weeks, as many European countries are closing their borders and car manufactures are disrupting production. Meanwhile, prices in Asia are heavily affected by low oil prices.
At SPR Group we are very attentive to all the measures published during these days and we work to keep our activity operational. To assist you, you can fill out the contact form on our website.