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Document 31997Y1122(03)

Resolution of the ECSC Consultative Committee on the classification of scrap (adopted unanimously with two abstentions during the 337th session of 10 October 1997)

OJ C 356, 22.11.1997, p. 8–10 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

In force


Resolution of the ECSC Consultative Committee on the classification of scrap (adopted unanimously with two abstentions during the 337th session of 10 October 1997)

Official Journal C 356 , 22/11/1997 P. 0008 - 0010

RESOLUTION OF THE ECSC CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE ON THE CLASSIFICATION OF SCRAP (adopted unanimously with two abstentions during the 337th session of 10 October 1997) (97/C 356/05)


The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes has been ratified by the Member States of the European Union and by the European Commission.

This Convention covers cross-border movements of hazardous and other wastes. It classifies scrap as non-hazardous waste.

The Basel Convention is the basis of OECD and European Union work in this field.

On 30 March 1992, the OECD published a Decision (92/39 final) on the control within the OECD of transfrontier movements of wastes destined for recovery operations.

The OECD separates waste into three lists (red, orange, green).

The more hazardous the waste is considered to be, the stricter and more binding the notification and authorization procedures resulting from this OECD Decision.

All types of scrap have, from the outset, featured in the green list of non-hazardous wastes.

At European Union level, the cross-border movement of waste, both intra-European Union and extra-European Union, is governed by Regulation (EEC) No 259/93 (1), which is based on the work carried out by the OECD.

Although not regarded as hazardous, scrap is therefore currently considered as waste by the European Union.


In order to be used in the iron and steel industry, scrap has to be processed so that it complies with a number of constraints regarding quality, environmental protection and safety, particularly that of workers.

Safety constraints take top priority and failure to observe these automatically means that the cargo involved will be turned down.

All categories of scrap therefore exclude:

- pressure vessels which may cause exlosions,

- dangerous, inflammable and explosive materials, firearms, fouling or polluting agents or any other substance which is dangerous to the environment and human health,

- radioactive products (radioactive waste being explicitly excluded from the field of application of the Basel Convention and resulting regulations).

Given that it can be recycled in its entirety and indefinitely without any loss of quality, the use of this material is perfectly compatible with a model of sustainable development:

- by limiting the consumption of iron ores, which are non-renewable raw materials,

- by producing substantial energy savings.

In addition, the intrinsic value of the scrap collected means that it will always be recycled, thus avoiding problems with discharge or disposal.

Furthermore, environmental protection during the scrap recycling process is guaranteed by means of instructions on emissions contained in the operating licences for the industrial installations concerned.

Thus, other than during preprocessing, this scrap requires no restrictions or standards to be applied in order to guarantee a high level of environmental protection.

The ecological advantages of the recycling of scrap by the iron and steel industry are incontestable.


The supply of scrap is vital for the maintenance and development of the Community iron and steel industry.

Overall intra-European Union and extra-European Union trade in scrap amounts to almost 100 million tonnes (2) per year, of which:

- more than 20 million tonnes are imported and almost 25 million tonnes exported (intra + extra European Union),

- between 50 and 60 million tonnes are collected and processed within the European Union.

Consumption of scrap by the steel industry in the European Union amounts to approximately 90 million tonnes per year, almost one quarter of the world consumption.

The viability of a basic sector of industry such as iron and steel depends on optimum quality and price conditions for the supply of its raw materials, in this case scrap. Scrap, like iron ore, faces competition on the world raw-materials market.

This explains why unjustified restrictions impeding the free movement of scrap or pejorative connotations such as the 'waste` label can lead to commercial and/or technical difficulties and jeopardize the competitive position of European user enterprises.

The fact the scrap has been placed on the green list does not necessarily protect it from specific constraints arising from the imposition of standards or restrictions, which in its case are unjustified. Furthermore, the existence of differing interpretations depending on the different authorities or Member States leads to distortions competition.

By way of example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just excluded secondary metals from environmental legislation, a decision which is in line with the argumentation developed hereafter. However, the application of different legislation between two trading partners will complicate the international situation and is commercially disadvantageous for European Union enterprises in the scrap sector.

The 'waste` tag currently attached to scrap is unjustified and can only have negative repercussions on the public image and prices, not just of scrap, but of steel in general as a recyclable product.

The economic advantages of the recycling of scrap by the iron and steel industry are incontestable.


In the European Union, as in the rest of the world, scrap is an essential raw material for the production of steel in integrated plants and electric steelworks, both for ordinary steels and special steels (e.g. alloy steels, stainless steels).

The scrap used in the iron and steel industry, in the form of products covered by the ECSC Treaty, is therefore an irreplaceable raw material.

The ECSC Consultative Committee notes that the European Parliament has recommended that scrap no longer be considered as waste.

The Consultative Committee notes that the United States of America considers scrap to be a product rather than waste.

This approach is both logical and reasonable from the point of view of the environment, the economy and the protection of workers.

The development in recent years of electrical steelmaking, which consumes more scrap than the integrated process, has led to a considerable increase in the use of scrap, thus further raising the importance of a resolution if any.


- notes that the recovery of scrap, and particularly its separation from other materials, is facilitated by its specific physical properties such as ferromagnetism and high specific density,

- is concerned that existing legislation classifies all categories of scrap indiscriminately as waste without taking into account the fact that scrap may have been processed to make it suitable for direct use in the iron and steel industry,

- considers that the different categories of scrap that comply with a series of objectively verifiable definitions and restrictions, are specified in the different standards,

- recalls that these specifications, in terms of physical and chemical characteristics, assure that scrap complies with a series of constraints particularily as far as quality standards, environmental protection and safety for the workers are concerned,

- therefore encourages the Commission to pursue its efforts aimed at establishing coherent European norms relating in particular to the control of radioactivity,

- firmly maintains that processed scrap is a valuable base material, and in fact:

- its use poses no threat to human health and the environment,

- it can be recycled indefinitely without losing any of its essential properties,

- relatively simple and economical processes can be used to transform it into a product similar to the original,

- entirely supports the recommendation of the European Parliament to 'declassify scrap as waste in Community legislation` (3).

Concluding from what has been said before, the ECSC Consultative Committee strongly urges that scrap be considered as a 'product`, be removed from the OECD lists of 'wastes` and be excluded from the scope of the European regulations concerning 'wastes`.

(1) OJ L 30, 6. 2. 1993, p. 1.

(2) 1995.

(3) OJ C 261, 9. 9. 1996, p. 150.