By Sarah Townsend
Bureau of International Recycling urges region to recycle rather than extract, but warns of potentially damaging impact of India customs policy on recycled materials trade
The Middle East should ramp up efforts to recycle raw materials to diversify its exports and cut carbon emissions, the head of a global organisation aimed at increasing trade flows.
Alexandre Delacoux, director-general of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), is on a mission to help the Middle East get better at recycling – not a simple task in a region where extraction or importation of new supply is usually seen as the easier option.
Brussels-based Delacoux was in Dubai last week for the BIR’s annual convention. For the first time, the newly established Middle East chapter, the Bureau of Middle East Recycling (BMR), attended – representing scrap metal and commodities traders, manufacturers, processors and others in the region’s commercial recycling industry.
The BMR, which was set up earlier this year, is chaired by Salam Al Sharif, chairman of Dubai-based Sharif Metals, and comprises firms such as Emirates Aluminium and Sun Metal Casting.
Speaking to Arabian Business on the sidelines of the conference, Delacoux said there is untapped opportunity for large-scale materials recycling in the Middle East but that the region faces the same significant challenges as the industry as a whole.
National security fears, changing import and export regulations, tighter customs inspection rules and concerns over quality of commodities are all factors that can stifle the flow of international trade and cause pile-ups of unused recycled materials in a country.
For example, the BIR is anticipating problems globally as a result of a change in regulations governing the inspections of containers arriving in India, set to be introduced next month. Prime Minister Modi is also expected to increase export taxes in the near future.
“This is a big concern for us because there are not many markets that really ‘pull’ the whole industry but India is one of them,” said Delacoux. “As its economy develops, it supports trading and compensates for other emerging markets such as south-east Asia, which are not buoyant enough to instigate large public works that demand a lot of materials.
“The new rules require very, very tough inspection of containers coming into India, which means containers will have to wait for long periods because there isn’t enough clearance capability – in short, in short, not enough manpower to clear it fast enough. It will also mean increased potential for incoming materials to be rejected, interrupting global flows.”
He added: “Our role – and that of the BMR – is to ensure that end-of-life materials, such as copper, steel and so on – are able to reach the locations where they can be best processed or enter production to create a new, recycled commodity,” said Delacoux.
Delacoux told Arabian Business that the Middle East could make substantial savings by recycling commodities such as aluminium – of which 90 percent of total supply is recycled in many parts of the world – and textiles, of which a “staggering” 30 billion tonnes is recycled each year globally.
Meanwhile the UAE in particular – which has set itself ambitious targets for sustainable construction ahead of Expo2020 – could cut vast amounts of carbon by increasing its recycling activities.
“CO2 is a collateral of [the Gulf’s] extraction activity,” Delacoux said. “Extracting raw materials uses a lot of CO2 whereas the recycling process uses hardly any. In that sense there is a very high benefit to recycling as opposed to continuing to extract raw materials.”
He also called on the Dubai government to launch new initiatives to encourage domestic recycling – an industry that is in its infancy across the Middle East as a whole. “Lack of domestic recycling will certainly have an impact on supply chains across the world. It is an issue of national waste management and that will spur fresh economic activity as well as helping the world.”
The BMR is one of 49 national associations that constitute the network, and Delacoux said it will play an important role in the BIR’s work because of the Middle East’s geographical location at the heart of global trade flows.