UK merchants are entering Spring with renewed optimism and vigour. The UK’s impressive and efficient COVID vaccine roll-out is lifting the nation’s spirits: all people aged over 50 are scheduled to have received their first vaccination by April 15. Business is not back to pre-pandemic levels but has certainly picked up in recent weeks.
It is hard to distinguish whether Brexit or COVID has been having the biggest impact in the first quarter of 2021. Merchants and traders who export to mainland Europe are saying those who had prepared early for Brexit are not experiencing too many problems.
With the higher LME prices, consumers are taking the opportunity to widen their margins, as one would expect. Despite this, strong prices are still being offered by merchants, especially those whose business models require large volumes in order to justify their cost base.
With strong demand for copper, the lack of material in the marketplace is keeping red metal prices high. China’s tighter import restrictions are still making some traders hesitant about resuming their exports there.
The price for lead has been falling without an obvious explanation. Demand is slightly depressed but this may be due to a major fire at a UK consumer’s plant.
Merchants are currently less inclined to sort their aluminium grades as there is strong demand and prices for mixed aluminium from buyers in India. UK aluminium mills are under pressure to keep pace with Indian prices. With COVID restrictions soon to be lifted, UK car manufacturing is beginning to rev up again too, so creating more demand.
Leading metal recyclers in the UK used the fourth Global Recycling Day on March 18to set ambitious net-zero carbon emission targets. All recycled non-ferrous metals are inherently low-carbon and so metal recyclers have a great starting point as society looks to cut carbon emissions in the decades ahead. However, this does not mitigate recyclers’ responsibility to work on reducing their own carbon footprints. From individuals to large companies and governments, all must play their part in achieving net-zero emissions and limiting the worst effects of climate change.
Recycled Products Ltd (GBR), Board Member of the BIR Non-Ferrous Metals Division