Metals firms bid for clearer EU waste rules

Scrap industry welcomes plain language guide interpreting UK waste/non-waste definition

European metals recyclers have welcomed a plain language guide to distinguishing waste scrap metal from raw material published yesterday by the Environment Agency of England and Wales and two UK metals industry associations. Francis Veys of the European Ferrous Recycling Association greeted the document as a "major development" that could provide a new basis for EU discussions over when scrap should be defined as waste or non-waste.

The guide's publication follows an English high court judgement in a case brought by the European ferrous metals industry in a bid to clarify the law on waste/non-waste in a major EU state. The ruling confirmed the existing official interpretation of where the dividing line should fall (ENDS Daily 12 November 1998) despite initial industry claims that it had shifted the balance (ENDS Daily 11 November 1998). But it also defined clearly a case-by-case approach to identifying at what point waste materials cease to be waste.

As well as providing greater clarity for British firms and municipalities, Mr Veys said, the new UK guidelines could provide "a basis for discussions with the European Commission" on the waste/non-waste issue. He expressed hope that the document would be tabled by the UK delegation at a meeting of EU member state representatives tomorrow. "I believe it could serve as a basis for further discussions," he added.

The Anglo-Welsh environment agency welcomed the guidelines as providing "useful clarification" while stressing that it would have preferred the high court challenge not to have happened in the first place.

The British Metals Federation said that it had always viewed the legal action as "non-adversarial" and designed to seek clarification. It claimed the new guidelines would "remove any doubt" over the status of scrap metals and said it also confirmed that neither "fully processed furnace feedstock" nor material processed "solely for commercial reasons" was waste.

Follow Up:
Anglo-Welsh environment agency, tel: +44 1454 624 400; British Metals Federation, tel: +44 1480 455 249; European Ferrous Recycling Association, tel: +32 2 627 5770. See also Guidance on distinguishing waste scrap metal from raw material.

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