Our MD tells government to stop practice of shipping precious metal waste abroad and instead invest in UK’s metal extraction industry ahead of Brexit

• Inprotec MD says practice of shipping precious metal abroad needs to stop from an economic and sustainability perspective
• MD Chris says government needs to invest in UK’s metals extraction industry to ensure UK is able to process its own waste and benefit from the value derived from extracting precious metals, rather than shipping them abroad and damaging the planet in the process

Yorkshire-based pyrometallurgical process engineering company, Inprotec, is calling on the government to stop the environmentally and economically damaging practice of shipping precious metal waste abroad and instead focus on growing and supporting the UK’s metal extraction industry.

There are currently a limited number of metal refineries in the UK, which means that the majority of waste containing non-ferrous and precious metals is shipped abroad to Europe, or further afield, for processing.

Products containing non-ferrous and precious metals are extremely common, particularly in tech gadgets which are becoming more and more popular in the UK – and this means that there’s more waste being shipped abroad containing such materials than ever before.

As well as being an environmentally and economically damaging practice, Inprotec says that shipping metal waste abroad will not be sustainable post-Brexit from a cost perspective – and is calling on the government to do the right thing and provide greater support to the UK’s burgeoning metal extraction industry.

Chris Oldroyd, managing director of Normanton-based Inprotec, says: “Non-ferrous and precious metals are increasingly common in many of the products we buy and use on a daily basis in the UK. Unfortunately, there are very few facilities currently in the UK that are able to process the metals in these products once we throw them away, meaning most of this waste is shipped abroad to be processed.

“This is a dangerous and unsustainable practice on a number of levels, and it’s something the government urgently needs to address.

“Not only does it leave a huge carbon footprint which is clearly bad for the environment, but it also means that we’re not taking accountability for processing our own waste and losing out on the value that exists from the non-ferrous and precious metals contained within the waste that’s currently shipped abroad.

“We have the technology and the appetite within the sector to process this valuable waste here in the UK. What we’re missing is the government support. If this government is as serious as it says it is about supporting the green economy, it needs to put its money where its mouth is and invest in the industry, particularly in light of Brexit which will make an already unsustainable practice even more unsustainable.

“The UK has to become more self-sufficient in recycling the valuable and scarce materials which we have become so dependent on, back to elemental form and back into the economic cycle. An additional issue which needs to be addressed is that of problematic waste, specifically plastic.

Transporting plastics overseas for other countries to process is not going to be viable due to additional costs and the fact that other countries will no longer accept these wastes. The UK needs to address the plastic recycling issue locally, so the raw materials are not transported, and therefore gain value from the recycling, the most obvious of which would be by returning the plastics back to its hydro-carbon form. Technology exists which allows this process and it needs to be taken advantage of.”