From personal recollection, few if any BIR Presidents have begun their tenure at a time when the outlook for the recycling industry was generally rosy and problem-free. Just a few months have passed since I had the honour to become President of an organization I have known from my youth and for which I have always felt the utmost passion and respect; however, even that short period in office has provided many examples of the breadth and scale of problems we are encountering with seemingly inevitable regularity.
Issues to cloud our working lives have included most notably: the US/China trade war and its effect on the global economy; regulatory uncertainty in China, spreading to other countries in the same region; the destabilizing impact of Brexit; and a host of other unforeseen events with wider geopolitical ramifications, each in its turn serving as a trigger for renewed market volatility.
The list of challenges confronting our industry is, and has always seemed to be, endless. Of more specific relevance to our recycling community, BIR and national associations have continued to muster their forces to defend the interests of members over such fundamental issues as what legally constitutes a recycler. The importance of BIR’s advocacy work on these vital campaign fronts cannot be overstated.
Having said all of this, the period since I became BIR President has not been without its plus points and rays of hope. For example, we received the welcome news in December of China’s reclassification of a number of non- ferrous grades for the purposes of importation. This was greeted with great relief and optimism within the recycling community as a sign that China does not intend to turn its back on high-quality recyclables from overseas. Such a move bodes well for an improvement in trading conditions in 2020.
Also on the upside, our 2019 Conventions in Singapore and Budapest were a resounding success, attracting larger-than-anticipated delegate numbers and a high quality of presentations. It could be argued that attendances should indeed increase at times when trading conditions are more difficult because delegates will be keen to obtain latest, first-hand updates on all of the issues impacting their day-to-day businesses. However, it is equally true to say that they would not make the financial and time commitment to attend a Convention if they did not feel they were getting the fullest value for money. In effect, our twice-yearly gatherings remain a “must” for recycling professionals.
As I stated in my opening address as your President in Singapore last year, one of my key objectives will be to ensure that BIR continues to position itself as the global recycling body, working closely with its national association members around the world and drawing on their support. In December, a visit to the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries proved extremely productive and instructive.
I look forward to further positive interactions with national associations throughout the course of 2020.
As a world organization, we continue to make progress on a number of the priority fronts I outlined several months ago, notably territory expansion and database enhancement. With regard to the latter, the new website launched by BIR at the start of this year has been updated to widen its outreach as well as to revitalize its core messages and statistical content.
Furthermore, our association is currently selecting appropriate candidates to support our Brussels secretariat in its collation of latest data aimed at fulfilling our objective, set out in Singapore, of making BIR the “go-to” source for recycling facts and figures. Such data are essential not only to underpin our arguments in support of our industry’s interests but also to benefit those outside our sector who want to learn more about BIR and about the crucial role of recycling.
Of course, the Global Recycling Day initiative launched by BIR under the leadership of my predecessor as President, Ranjit Singh Baxi, remains our main education and awareness programme. Once again in 2019, this was a great success. It is truly staggering, and bears eloquent testimony to the skills of all involved, that approaching 670 million people worldwide had the chance to hear the Global Recycling Day message through media coverage alone – and this in only its second year.
For too long, our industry has not received anywhere near sufficient credit for its tireless efforts in helping to safeguard the future of our planet through overcoming or alleviating environmental problems. We as an organization are now fully engaged in initiatives designed to turn up the volume on our key messages so that everyone will come to understand and appreciate the profound environmental, social and economic benefits of recycling.