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NEW DELHI : With the government’s focus on ‘circular economy’, merchants are facing challenges in scrap availability, said Material Recycling Association of India president Sanjay Mehta in an interview.

Mehta said there is a very strong demand of scrap, steel and other metals, with the scrappage policy having an impact on domestic scrap prices. This comes at a time when China, the largest producer of scrap has banned exports. Edited excerpts:

How does recycling lead to a circular economy?

Recycling is the basis for circular economy to roll on. We have to reduce our day-to-day usage; we have to reuse and repair whatever we can and then recycling comes. For circular economy, recycling is a must because the whole process of circular economy is incomplete without recycling.

How can the recycling industry reduce energy intensity of industrial projects?

With the concept of recycling itself, energy can be reduced. (When) you use any iron ore to make steel, energy is required. Secondary production will require only 20% of the energy used during the primary production process. Recycling takes care of 20-25% of the carbon emissions.

What kind of savings would this entail in mining and energy intensive processes?

Savings is the main game. You want to save the environment, carbon emissions for which recycling is the only option going forward. The mines that are being dug; the resources will get exhausted in 30-40 years. We have to mine above the earth and not below it. India has been recycling for the last 100 years. The importance of recycling has grown significantly in 40 years. Western countries have adopted the best principles of recycling and now for the last 5-6 years, India is adopting them.

E-waste is a big problem. What are the challenges you face in recycling them?

Most people have several electronic wastes lying around their homes that they haven’t given to proper authorities to be recycled. They often end up in the unorganized sector. We are hardly recycling 7-8% of e-waste in an organized manner. The government policy is promoting awareness towards it. There is a lot of scope in e-waste recycling. We are at 30% level and we have to reach 100%. Plastic and e-waste recycling are sectors where more awareness is required. Once we have that, there will be more business and employment opportunities.

As per the scrappage policy, will our domestic scrap prices be impacted?

With the government’s scrappage policy, domestic scrap prices will be impacted. Steel prices have fallen in the last two months but the demand has not moved down. There is a very strong demand for scrap, steel or any other metal. The requirement is increasing every month and domestic consumption has also gone up. China is the largest producer of scrap but has banned exports. The US is the largest exporter for India as we face challenges in scrap availability instead of scrap collection.

How is the vehicle scrapping policy helping?

The government made this policy after talking to the stakeholder involved. It will take a couple years to show effect. As a result, vehicles are reaching the organized sector. We have been scrapping vehicles for years now. It is mostly done locally, by local vendors. Their practices are not environmental friendly, but ours are. The scrap is reaching the steel making factories, locally. We have to ensure these practices spread across the nation now. It will take a couple of years but it will be a big aid to the industry as it will generate more scrap.

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