China, Malaysia's scrap metal U-turn a golden opportunity for India - official

By Eileen Soreng and Mai Nguyen
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Restrictions on imports of scrap metal into China, Malaysia and other countries offer a golden opportunity for recyclers in India, an industry official said on Wednesday.
The global scrap and waste processing industry has been in a state of upheaval since 2017, when former leading scrap importer China announced a ban on most imports of plastic, metal and paper scrap as part of the fight against pollution.
Malaysia then emerged as a top metal scrap and plastic waste destination in the world, but it too recently raised cleanliness thresholds for scrap imports, which has shaken global metal recyclers.
For India's recycling industry, Malaysia's ban represents a "golden opportunity" to attract new business and establish itself as a world leader in scrap processing, said Dhawal Shah, senior vice president of the Material Recycling Association of India (MRAI).
"We are very economical here. Everything that has a certain value is mined and recycled," says Shah, who also heads the non-ferrous metals division at the Bureau of International Recycling.
The scrap import restrictions imposed by China and Malaysia were designed to prevent the countries from becoming the world's garbage dumps.
Shah said India's recycling sector is well positioned to benefit from this withdrawal as long as government regulations are well thought out and clear guidelines are in place to ensure environmentally friendly processing of scrap.
"It's not fair to dump other people's garbage in another country," he said. But, he added, there is a lot of "credible movement of goods that needs to be done that can actually help our economy".
He said the rules shouldn't be too restrictive. "The most dynamic circular economy is when you have complex materials that can be treated the right way."
India is already a major metals recycler, with around 50% of its steel, an average of 40% of all non-ferrous metals and almost all stainless steel production coming from secondary sources, Shah said. Around 60% of the scrap supply comes from overseas.
As India's consumption grows over the next 10 to 15 years, recycling amounts and rates, especially for aluminum, are also expected to increase, Shah said.
Shah said India's expected increase in renewable energy production, mostly from solar energy, will also provide a large amount of recyclable material when photovoltaic panels are replaced.
He said the country's 1.4 billion people are a huge workforce for the industry.
(Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru, Mai Nguyen in Hanoi and Gavin Maguire in Singapore; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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