Focus on recycling information and standards

Several processes are coming together with the potential to drastically change the way recycling is measured and evaluated

(Items 1 and 1 prepared by Ross Bartley, Trade and Environment Director, International Bureau of Reclamation, presented here without further quotation).
1. The Open-Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention (OEWG-11) is looking at reclassifying mechanical recycling as a solid waste operation.

2. “on June 2 2018, the government of Norway submitted an application for the removal of all non-hazardous plastic wastes from Annex IX and for placing those wastes in Annex II. The implications for EU businesses, after the necessary follow-up amendment of the EU Waste Shipments Regulation, would be that non-hazardous plastic wastes would be prohibited for export from the EU to non-OECD countries, and intra-OECD transboundary movements would be subject to prior written notification and consent, while ISRI analyses indicate that US companies would be allowed to export only in limited cases. … Norway modified its proposal to allow certain plastic waste to remain in Annex IX. The final listings may be determined at the next Conference of the Parties … April 29 to May 10 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.”

3. Springloop’s Anne Scheinberg was nominated by Waste Advisors, to join the Review Panel on the solid waste standard for GRI, the Global Reporting Initiative, to review how companies report on solid waste and recycling in the context of the circular economy.

4. In 2018 Scheinberg joined the ISWA Working Group on Recycling and Waste Minimisation, which looks at relevant and timely issues such as the changing landscape for textile waste recycling in Europe and current issues related to EPR (extended producer responsibility).

5. Some members of the global community of practice working on recycling in low- and middle-income countries have expressed concern about developments in relation to the standard in process, Guidance Principles for the Sustainable Management of Secondary Metals, also known as “International Workshop Agreement  ISO IWA 19.” 

Draft 1.0 of 31 Dec 2016, characterises informal recyclers in the secondary metal supply chain as exploited workers who are forced to work with hazardous substances, and demands protection in the form of fair employment agreements. This is a good idea based on the assumption that most or all informal recyclers would prefer employment to independent entrepreneurship, but there is little evidence that this is the case. The literature, fieldwork, communications of informal recyclers and their advocates, and other forms of information, in contrast, reports wide variation in the opinions of informal recyclers. The preference for employment, collective organisation in associations or unions, family or individual enterprises, independent professional status, or other institutional arrangements depends on location (city, country, continent), preferred materials, informal and semi-formal occupations,  age, sex, skill levels, years in recycling, proximity to value chain buyers, and many other factors.

Unfortunately, Draft 1.0 presents a quite unrealistic (and apparently rather uninformed) view of the realities of informal recycling, and fails to understand that a supply chain is not the same as a factory, and that an independent supplier is not the same as an employee. Informal metal recyclers themselves do not appear to have had much if any input into this document. It is not clear how the further development of this document will affect informal recyclers or the enterprises that buy from them.