It was unusual to hear Bureau of International Recycling director-general Francis Veys saying that European secondary copper producers are protectionist, after they lobbied the European Commission to set a very tight limit on the types of scrap that can be considered products, as opposed to waste.

Whether or not he is right to make the claim, Veys’ frustration is understandable.

Through its participation in a technical working group, the BIR consulted with the European Commission as it drafted the rule, and the commission has acknowledged it – then roundly ignored it.

It is not the first time representatives of the metals trade and industry have found themselves shut out in the European policymaking process, and once again the union will vote through a well-meaning but wrong-headed policy.

What will be equally frustrating is that organisations such as the BIR saw great opportunity in this new regulation, and viewed it as a way to undo the longstanding Basel Convention rule that classified high-grade metal scrap as hazardous waste in the first place.

Aside from his disappointment, Veys must feel a sense of déjà vu.

“To snub the decision and work of the [working group] is a disgrace ... [This] has been forced by the Commission politically and the commissioner,” Metal Bulletin quoted Veys as saying in 1996, as the Basel restrictions came into force into the EU.

... because it will distort the copper scrap market
And what about the issue of the pricing of the copper units in scrap as a result of the ludicrously tight definition?

How will the copper in 97% scrap be priced compared with the units in 98% scrap?

Perhaps a technical working group could be set up to establish whether the commission’s ruling will distort markets.

Mind you, on the basis of this decision, if the group found that was a concern, the commission would ignore it anyway.