Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Ian Hetherington, Sophie Thomas, Tony Hartwell and
26 January 2011
Q34 Chair: Thank
you for attending this morning. Perhaps, for the record, you would
be kind enough to introduce yourselves.
My name is Sophie Thomas. I am here representing the Design Council
of the UK.
My name is Ian Hetherington. I represent the British Metals Recycling
My name is Tony Hartwell. I am from the Environmental Sustainability
Knowledge Transfer Network.
I am Louis Brimacombe. I am the environmental research manager
for Tata Steel Europe but also I chair the Sustainable Development
Group of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.
Q35 Chair: I have
a simple question for you all and then I have a couple of specific
questions. Perhaps you would tell us what criteria you would use
to define a strategically important metal.
Tony and I have been discussing this. I regard something as strategically
important if the UK is vulnerable in terms of either supply or
production in terms of our future viability from a GDP viewpoint.
I would include more than just rare earth metals. I would include
steel, aluminium and all the alloying elements that go with that
Traditionally, "strategic" has been thought of in military
terms. Historically, people have stockpiled to cope with situations
to deal with military applications. Certainly that is the case
in the US. In Japan, they have stockpiled for different reasons
for their own economic performance and manufacturing industries.
The US has one definition, which is called "critical materials",
when the Department of Defense is the major customer for that
material. For example, beryllium is what they consider to be a
critical material. It is not only the materials themselves that
are important but the facilities for processing and making a finished
product from those materials. It is no good just having any rare
earth metal itself if you can't process it and then convert it
into a finished product. It is technology throughout the supply
chain that makes a strategic material.
Q36 Chair: In
your earlier written evidence from your organisation, you referred
to the form of metals in the context of what was strategic. Could
you expand on that?
For example, there is a new manufacturing technique called Additive
Layer Manufacturing where you can make complex components from
metal powders, but the powder has to be in the right form. It
is a special technique to make the powders for that particular
process. You may be making something out of titanium but if you
have a titanium ingot you can't use Additive Layer Manufacturing.
You have to convert that titanium into a titanium powder that
can be used in the process. That is the point I was trying to
make. It's not just the material but it's the form that it's in
that is important.
Yes. We would hesitate to define strategic metals or strategic
materials. In very broad terms, it's those that are critical,
in danger or their scarcity would endanger the economy, not of
the UK because I don't think we can look at this on a domestic
UK basis, rather we have to look at Europe and at other western
developed countries. A narrow definition of what is strategic
to the UK leads us down some very black alleys and some dangerous
Q37 Chair: Again,
coming back to your evidence, Mr Hetherington, you encourage us
not to look at metals that have volatile prices in the market.
If the word "strategic" does mean to some end users
what they pay for it, why are you trying to discourage us from
looking at that?
The reason why we submitted in that form and would continue to
assert that is because metals are traded as a commodity, whether
it is steel, copper or any of the rare earth metals, although
some of those are special cases, we believe. These prices are
volatile. They are volatile for particular reasons, but that in
a sense does not make them in any national or geopolitical sense
strategic. The economics of extraction, recycling, recovery and
processing are such that they have price volatility. It is an
inescapable fact. It doesn't necessarily signify any great scarcity.
We would argue that there is no intrinsic scarcity of copper.
The reason for price volatility at the moment is as much to do
with hedge funds buying vast quantities of physical copper as
it is to do with excessive demand within the Chinese infrastructure.
There are many factors affecting price and we would contend that
they do not form a basis on their own for needing to develop national
I come from a very different point of view. As a designer and
somebody who is representing the design industry, I see these
materials as the building blocks of design. They are the raw materials
that we make things with. If you look from the other side of the
argument, with regards to the waste stream that is coming out,
the fact that we are not being responsible in the way we are using
these materials and the way that design should be thinking about
the whole loop of how we recover them, I see great opportunity
in that. There is a bigger picture when it comes to material scarcity.
I would like to comment on one point that Ian made. I was talking
to an alloys producer yesterday that uses a pure chromium metal
in their alloys. They used to buy it from a company called Elementis
in the UK that shut down their plant two years ago. The price
they pay now is about £9 per kilo when they used to pay about
£5. I agree with Ian that the UK needs to look at it in
a European context, to consider the European Raw Material Initiative
and the critical materials strategy and find places where the
UK has niches where it can contribute in a European context. We
have manufacturing facilities for magnesium and magnesium alloys
in Manchester. That is a special facility which we should expand
on. It makes special alloys for the aerospace industry. Let's
find the niches where we can support a European programme.
Q38 Stephen Mosley:
We heard in the previous panel that there might be an opportunity
for UK domestic extraction to meet some of the shortfall in future
demand. We are also considering the environmental impact of that.
As a starter question, how do you consider that the environmental
impact of mining in the UK compares with the impact of mining
elsewhere in the world?
I have nothing to add to that, I'm afraid.
The economic viability of mining materials in the UK has reduced
compared with countries which have large reserves of richer grades
of material such as Brazil and Australia, for example. When pre-credit
crunch demand was high, the risks regarding the availability of
resources and the fact that iron ore prices escalated, made industry
look again and say, "Is it now economically viable to look
at the low grade materials?" and, even, " Is it economic
to look at, for example, landfill materials?" It is an economic
issue to begin with.
In terms of environmental impact, if you look
at it on a global basis, we probably manage environmental issues
of our mining operations very well and probably do it better than
overseas and further away. So the net impact globally might be
better than overseas, although I think that the mining community
now in general is improving its environmental and social performance
overseas as well.
Once upon a time we had the biggest copper mine in the world in
the UK in Anglesey, and Swansea was called "Copperopolis".
It was the centre of copper production in the world. That was
one of the bubbles before the internet or after the tulips.
There is a demand for these metals and they
are going to be produced somewhere in the world. The point is
that, if we are using the metals, we have a responsibility to
see that they are mined sustainably wherever they are made. The
International Council on Mining and Metals is working towards
a sustainable development programme for all of their members,
for all of the international mining groups. There is the prospect
to develop a tungsten mine in the UK. Coming back to the military
connection, it was developed during the Second World War because
tungsten was a strategic material. They built a pilot plant. It
was never quite developed before the end of the war. It was revisited
in the 1970s, and they were going to reopen it. They had planning
permission to reopen it, and then there was an oil crisis and
it never happened. Now they are looking at redeveloping it again.
Tungsten is certainly a strategic material and Europe is very
dependent on imports of tungsten. In my view, tungsten is a critical
material so we should look at how we can develop it and process
it sustainably within the UK.
It helps in terms of when you are looking at closed loop systems
and concepts such as cradle to cradle, which is about knowing
where your materials come from, how they are mined, making sure
that there are proper labour laws in your chain of suppliers and
building it into the whole infrastructure of when and how you
get it back. The more you can control quality throughout the whole
phases of material and design, reprocessing and recovering, the
Q39 Stephen Mosley:
On that last point, when it comes to importing materials from
elsewhere, do you think the Government have a role in setting
and monitoring environmental standards, or do you think that we
should be moving in the direction of some sort of voluntary scheme,
for instance, similar to the Forest Stewardship Council, having
some sort of mark to demonstrate that the materials are coming
from an environmentally friendly source?
They are very interesting points. I was with the Institute of
Materials and Materials KTN last week on a Designing out Landfill
mission in the Netherlands. We were shown really good case studies
of manufacturing systems which had very close relationships with
their waste manufacturing companies. They were backed up by good,
strong central government laws and local municipal laws which
helped make sure that the chain of custody, knowledge and experience
of all the people came together to create very innovative ways
of designing and recovery of materials. We could learn a lot from
them here. And it showed that a mixture of these things brought
the ideal environment for innovation. There was a big push from
Government there, including the landfill ban, for instance, and
a move towards effective recycling, efficient recovery and incineration.
I am in danger of being considered a Japanophile if I talk through
this presentation, but they have an organisation called JOGMEC
that looks at resourcing materials such as oil, gas and minerals
for the Japanese industry. They not only look at what they do
with materials within Japan but they invest in mining developments.
If you are going to influence how a mine is developed, then investment
and engagement in the mining activities is a way that you can
do that. They will take a share. People are now talking about
the Chinese buying into mining organisations and controlling them.
The Japanese have done that for many years. Britain did it, but
through commercial companies in the past. There is not really
a central agency in the UK that is responsible for managing resource
inputs into the UK. So there is not one department that is responsible
for that. Maybe that is something we could consider.
Q40 Chair: Should
When we produced more than 100 million tonnes of coal we had a
National Coal Board. Materials are responsible for a great deal
of energy consumption and a lot of CO2 emissions. So
if we have agencies for energy and CO2, it would make
sense to have an agency for materials that was looking at aspects
Q41 Stephen Mosley:
In answer to one of the previous questions, you mentioned about
planning permission being granted in the 1970s for this tungsten
mine. One of the issues that we heard about from the previous
panel was that it is difficult to open new mines because of the
planning restrictions, and in many cases you do have to rely upon
mines that gained planning permission many years ago in order
to look for new resources. Do you think that the UK's planning
system needs some sort of reform to make it easier to open new
Yes. I don't think it is just the UK, but Europe as a whole is
in a similar position. We spoke to a company that was looking
at developing mining assets and they said they wouldn't even look
at deposits in Europe because they know it is going to take them
10 or 15 years to go from discovering the deposit to getting into
production. They just can't afford to do that. They can't afford
to invest in developing the deposit, exploring for it and going
on to do that. The same is happening now in America where they
are trying to shorten their planning process from two years to
one year for minerals and metals. Certainly the planning process
takes a long time.
There are two aspects to that. Of course, these
things do need to be properly evaluated, but we need, perhaps,
to educate, not indoctrinate, the public that we all use materials,
so if we are using them they have to come from somewhere. If you
have a quarry or a mine close to where you live and you don't
want that, then maybe you shouldn't use any materials at all because
we all use them, so somebody has to have a mine next to them.
Q42 Stephen Mosley:
One thing that is a slight contradiction from what we heard earlier
was from you, Ms Thomas. You have just said that we need to move
to a process involving more extraction and incineration.
No. I was saying there is evidence that the Netherlands had moved
towards incineration in their plans. They have put the infrastructure
in place and are now in a position where they have overcapacity.
Their emphasis has changed and now they are putting more emphasis
on recoverability. It means that their waste streams are reducing,
which they have started to factor into the planning of their business
models. The people who are dealing with the structure of their
waste manufacturing now know that they can't rely on keeping those
incineration plants open so they are looking more towards recovery
as a business opportunity.
Q43 Roger Williams: There
are plans to reopen Parys Mountain on Angelsey, which has been
exploited, I think, since Bronze Age times. You never know how
these things come around again. There are other ways of meeting
the needs for these materials other than mining virgin ore and
virgin materials through reduction, reuse and recycling. Some
of the metals that we are talking about were not used to any great
extent 10, 20 or 30 years ago. So the opportunities for recycling
are reasonably limited in terms of the current day use. What is
the potential to meet the UK demands for these metals from reuse
and recycling? I know that may vary between any particular metal,
but perhaps you could give us some examples.
Can I make a general point? Picking up on what Sophie said, you
can have an avoidance of landfill by having incineration and so
on, but there is no doubt about it that, in life cycle terms,
in trying to reduce environmental impacts, reuse, recycling and
reduction are the key strategies. The way you have mentioned it
it is as if the reuse systems are already there, but they are
not. There is a huge opportunity for the UK to develop infrastructure
and knowledge to improve reuse. That would be a significant change
to the environmental impact, but it would also be a significant
change in terms of the availability of scarce materials because
the range of materials that we are talking about is broad. But
there are things in electronic goods, phones and computers. The
material is in there. If we have a scarcity of supply, why not
develop technologies to move into that area? It is a fairly new
concept that will require new technology and we need to do some
research to support that.
The volumes of strategic metalsI will borrow that phrase
occurring in the end of life supply chain at the moment are very
limited. As to the life cycle for any of this type of equipment,
if it is a car, it is running currently at 16 years. I suspect
that some of the energy generation equipment that we are talking
about and some of the more sophisticated electronic uses of rare
earth metals may be shorter than that. They are of that type of
dimension10 to 12 years. If we look 10, 12 to 16 years
back from today, the use of these materials was not as great as
it is today and, clearly, it is probably not as great as it will
be in another 10 years. We are now at the point of having to plan
as recyclers to start to receive these materials in meaningful
quantities. At the moment the quantity is not available, so it
is not that the capability does not exist within UK recycling
- because it does exist - but the volumes are not available.
Currently, we are recovering substantial quantities
of platinum, rhodium and palladium, along, with gold and silver,
mainly from recovered waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Recovery rates from materials that actually get to UK recyclers
are very high. We are hitting over 90% of all materials that are
recovered and reused. The difficulty comes from collecting the
stuff in the first place. The rates of collection are low. Government
are trying to do more with that at the moment and I think they
will succeed in time. So the capability is there. Not only is
there not the supply but also there is not a market. I did some
work ahead of today to find out what the current quoted price
for secondary neodymium was, which is probably the most frequently
occurring, and nobody can find a price. There isn't actually a
market for a lot of these secondary strategic materials. While
there isn't a market, there won't be any effective recycling.
Q44 Chair: It sounds
to me as though you could have a discussion with Mr Brimacombe
afterwards and a deal could be struck. You talked about the collection
issues. Have you given any thought to how that ought to be put
in place strategically? Do we need regional collection structures?
Who should be responsible for it?
I think it's very clear. Domestic WEEEexcuse the acronym,
but I mean waste electrical and electronic equipmentis
controlled under the European directive. Local authorities and,
primarily, manufacturers have an obligation to secure the recycling
of equipment they are putting into the market. That is working.
It's working more slowly in the UK than in Holland, for example.
Holland have embraced this and done it very well. Some other European
countries have done it less well than the UK, but we are all moving
in the right direction. Where there are no controls is in the
area of industrial and commercial electronic and electrical waste.
That is an area which Government need to grasp but equally industry.
A lot of this can be done on an informational basis, especially
as we are beginning to see some of this more sophisticated material
coming through, which is essentially industrial equipment. We
need to build more sophisticated models for its collection, recovery
and reuse. Reuse is absolutely critical, especially with magnets,
for example, because they can be reused.
There are two important points that I would like to make here.
We don't consume metals. When we use oil, we burn it and it is
destroyed, but, with metals, we don't consume them. We dissipate
them to a greater or lesser extent. So when we look at metals,
we have supply from ore and from scrap, and it goes into the technosphere
and is available for future use. We have to try and balance the
supply of primary material and the supply of secondary material
to replace the losses in the system, and that is different for
different metals. If anybody talks about consuming metals, it
is a term that is used loosely because they divide the number
of tonnes produced by the number of people and it gives you consumption
per head. But please don't think of it in consumption terms like
we do with oil. It is available.
What is important with secondary materials is that
the environmental impact of using those, if the system is designed
well, is significantly less than primary production. We can help
to reduce our CO2 emissions and improve our energy
efficiency by a well-designed secondary recovery.
The second point is that the problem we have with
recovering some of these hi-tech metals is that they are used
in very small quantities. It is probably 50 mg of tantalum here
(pointing to a mobile phone) and 50 mg of other high-value materials.
We need to try and design them in a way that we can dismantle
segments of it that have compatible metals. At the moment this
would probably go to a copper smelter in Belgium or Sweden and
they will recover some of the metals, but some of the hi-tech
metals will not be recovered because they are incompatible with
that smelting process, whereas if you separated them out into
different components and processed them in a different way you
would have a better chance of recovering them.
Q45 Roger Williams: Mr.
Hetherington, following on from that point, we have been told
that British metal recycling is a big industry. It has a £5
billion turnover. We were told by a previous witness that much
of the recovered material is sent abroad to be processed. So there
is a lot of recovery taking place in Britain but not quite so
much of the reprocessing. Is there any opportunity to increase
that reprocessing in this country and then, at the same time,
recovering some of these important rare earths but in very limited
Yes. If I can just use that opportunity to make another point,
when this discussion was taking place in the earlier evidence
session, there was some confusion between the theft of non-ferrous
metals and the export of non-ferrous metals. Metal theft is a
serious issue for us. It's illegal and it is not endorsed by anybody
in the industry. We work with the police and the Home Office to
try and eradicate it. It is a criminal activity, so let's put
that down as a marker. This is entirely different from the legitimate
export and import of secondary metals.
The numbers are right. Yes, we process, as an industry,
around about 15 million tonnes of metal every year and about 40%
of that is exported. There is a very good reason why it's exported.
Our friends at Tata Steel were always the mainstay of the UK ferrous
recyclers and virtually every tonne of iron and steel recycled
in the UK was sold into Tata and its sister plants. Sadly, those
volumes and the scrap buying of Tata Steel has followed the pattern
of many other UK metal processing activities by falling away.
The UK has a substantial surplus of recycled metals. As a consequence,
we have a highly successful and very well developed export market.
I would add that our members would love to sell all their material
to UK processors. Nothing would give them more pleasure. They
are producing a furnace-ready product and it has an international
Q46 Chair: Just
for the record, because there is potentially a slight contradiction
between what you and Mr Hartwell said, I want to be clear. You
were not disagreeing with the example of his mobile device when,
earlier on, you were referring to 90% being recycled. Your 90%
was of those big volume metalssteel, copper and so on.
Q47 Chair: You
are accepting that there is a real problem with those low volume
small devices and things like that.
I totally agree. I am agreeing, not disagreeing.
That's a design element that I think we'd all agree with.
Q48 Chair: We
are coming on to that.
On Ian's point about recycling in the UK, it is quite true that
we have been exporting 5 million to 6 million tonnes of steel
scrap for many a year now. Part of the explanation for that is
because the UK has built up infrastructure for primary ore steel
production and glass furnace operations simply because it is more
economic to do so when electricity prices are very high and the
scrap-based route is electric arc furnace-based. The iron ore
prices at the moment are also on the increase and there may be
more incentive for us to look again at scrap. But because the
arc furnace infrastructure is not really there in the UK, there
is about 20% to 25 % arc furnace infrastructure, we could do with
improving the rates of recycling scrap in the primary routes as
well. The BOS route has the potential to increase the scrap levels
and when you do that, the site CO2 emissions per tonne
will reduce. In a way, when you are exporting scrap, you are exporting
carbon credits. We need to think about that and about how to incentivise
scrap use in the UK.
This is important, too. People won't invest in electric arc furnaces
or aluminium smelters in Anglesey if they can't get an electricity
deal that is suitable for them for long-term production. Uncertainty
over electricity prices will mean that those large infrastructures
won't happen. The only reason we have any aluminium smelting left
in the UK is because it is relatively low CO2 emissions.
They are very small plants in world class terms. The one in Scotland
handles about 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes a year, but most world plants
are working on half a million tonnes a year to be economic. The
reason why it is in Scotland is because it is hydropower, so it
is a low CO2 emission product. We need to think structurally
about what we want to do with these secondary materials. If we
want to process more, we need to have a system in place that encourages
Q49 Roger Williams:
The other way to reduce demand is to reduce waste. So the question
is: are these materials wasted in some of the manufacturing processes
in the UK, and what can be done about it to make the use more
I suspect a lot of them were talking about invisible imports because
we don't import a lot of these special metals directly. They are
in the computers and the equipment we purchase and support. In
a way, we could look at that as a potential resource. It makes
sense for us to look at special ways and techniques of dismantling
and researching on doing this. That is the sort of work that is
happening in Japan.
We are not excluded from that in the UK. We are now starting discussions
with the automotive manufacturers on advance battery packs because
the design of the battery pack in the cars we are going to be
seeing in the next 10 years is absolutely critical to the means
and effectiveness by which we can extract the critical metals
from those battery packs. Those discussions are going on. They
are very receptive to it and we are looking here at a closed loop,
so, hopefully, by the time we are seeing the volumes of these
materials coming through on to the end of use market we will have
those processes in place. The UK is not immune from that.
Q50 Chair: We
are going to move on to look at the design and disassembly issues
now. Before we do that, when it comes to large volume smelting
of scrap materials, the larger the volume, the better the economics
in terms of design of furnaces, I guess. But for recovery purposes
of very specific materials that are in scarce supply I am presuming
that, with some of the smaller more sophisticated furnaces that
per tonne might be more expensive, but in the long term might
be a better way of operating.
That may be true for some of the lower volume materials.
Q51 Chair: When
you deal with large tonnages, as you do, what effort is put in
to screening them for more scarce materials?
I don't think there is very much effort to look for scarce materials
in our scrap.
Q52 Chair: But
you can see the logic that there ought to be.
Well no, the key thing for us is that to manage the metallurgical
process you need to define scrap in certain qualities to optimise
the processing requirements for alloying and so on. Scrap management
is about optimising the through value, if you like. The scarce
materials, from a steel industry perspective, is fairly low on
the agenda. For niobium, for example, which is in some high strength
steels, it is in tiny amounts. If you are referring to trying
to recover low volume materials you wouldn't go to the steelworks
to try and recover rare earth metals. It is probably better done
by the equipment dismantlers and scrap merchants at source.
Generally speaking, in the scrap process, to separate steel is
relatively straightforward because it is magnetic. The valuable
materials go in with the non-magnetic fractions. It is processing
of the non-magnetic residues from a scrap processing method.
Q53 Chair: My
point is that there is a dilution factor, is there not? You lose
some of the rare materials in that recycled steel.
It's possible, but I suspect there's not really much of it in
Q54 Chair: That's
the whole point. There isn't much of it. That is why we are having
From another perspective some of it could be useful, though.
If you have low niobium alloy steels in the scrap, you can factor
that into your processing to achieve the required new alloy. So
you are reusing that alloy again. So it is not all waste, by the
way. It is cleverly done. The recycling of scrap in steelworks
is a very efficient process. It is very technical and very economically
organised. I don't think we waste very much in that respect.
Q55 Stephen Metcalfe: We
touched on the design qualities of products. How do we encourage
manufacturers to design with reuse and recycling in mind? What
incentives do we need to put in place to make that happen?
From the experience of going round different manufacturing systems
in the Netherlands, as I said before, there seem to be a number
of elements that pushed the agenda forward, particularly in the
way that they have been looking at their landfill issues, which
for them is a big critical factor, and looking at new ways to
reduce and recover.
Crucial partnerships were set up within manufacturing
systems, including waste manufacturers like Van Gansewinkel, a
large waste manufacturing group in the Netherlands, who are now
working closely with Philips. They are setting up what they are
calling "cradle to cradle" groups, looking at the whole
process of a closed loop system, because Philips could tell them
exactly what was in their product and they could then work out
how it was collected at the end of life. If there is a design
product like, for instance, a coffee maker that they send to the
recovery plant, and which is a closed loop product, they needed
to know that they could easily recover all the materials in it
and they could have accreditation for the quality of those different
separated materials afterwards making it gradable so that it would
go back up into the loop to be re-made into another coffee maker.
The design of the components and their recovery was made much
simpler through this design process.
On the tour, we looked around a fridge recovery facility.
What was incredible was the huge factory you need just to take
apart a fridge to recover the material from that fridge. As Ian
was saying, there is a lag between the fact that some of these
fridges are 10 to 15 years old and therefore we are having to
deal with technology from 10 to 15 years ago. It was however amazing
that they could come back with a chunk of aluminium, steel, copper
and the polyurethane foam but without the CFCs, and they had recovered
all the different elements from it, ready for re-use. But you
have to bear in mind the amount of people you need to do that.
It shows that the way we recover things at the moment
is not as innovative and technologically efficient as the way
we are designing our electronicsour goods. Therefore, when
the manager was saying, "We get the circuit boards from computers",
they crunch them up in a pretty crude manner. If you think that
in a single mobile-phone there are 40 different elements some
of these elements are in such small quantities how can these crude
recovery processes capture them all? From Dr Pitts's evidence
there is about as much gold in one tonne of computer scrap as
there is in 17 tonnes of gold ore. It seems there is opportunity
to get it back having systems such as Philips and the waste manufacturing
company, pulling together a group of people who work together
on all the different processes within the loop, to design a very
efficient recovery system.
Then you can start looking at how we recover that
gold that deals with the dispersion that we have been hearing
about. Very small amounts of these materials are very important,
particularly for electronics, but they are in such small amounts
scattered in our WEEE scrap - but it all adds up in the end. So
how can we incentivise designers? We have nothing at the moment
that is pushing this agenda. There is a need to lead by example.
That is what the Design Council is looking for. How do we start
having conversations with material scientists, with the Institute
of Materials, with chemists? There is a huge opportunity for Government
to push the design industry to take this on board through the
Design Council because we are, effectively, a collection of cottage
industries. There are 232,000 designers in the UK and most of
them work in studios of five or fewer people. We are small, entrepreneurial
and very innovative. How do we gather these people together?
I am taken with Sophie's description. I would add that the most
sophisticated and largest WEEE recovery and recycling plant in
the world is in Newport. I commend the Committee that if anybody
ever wants to come and visit, you are very welcome. We can arrange
The other point I would make on thiswe were
talking about exports earlieris that the UK is a major
importer of waste electrical and electronic equipment, largely
because European manufacturers are working with our members on
design for recycling. It is happening now. It may not be perfect
but it is happening now, and the UK is the preferred route because
of the economics of using high technology as opposed to the use
of a very large labour force in that plant you looked at.
It isn't really very economic and we are employing some high technology.
I am sorry. Advert over.
As I said earlier, in terms of Government policy,
there does need to be a focus on industrial and commercial product
and driving the producer responsibility for those products, and
those materials within those products, down through the recovery
chain. It's not working perfectly, as I say, but it is beginning
to work with domestic consumer electrical equipment. It isn't
working with industrial and commercial. I think there is something
that needs to be done there with a degree of urgency because that
connection isn't being made. Some manufacturers and our members
are working closely together but it is patchy. It is a very patchy
picture. We must have compartmentalised use of critical materials
so that they can be readily removed.
I would add this with regard to the refining process
about which the Chairman was asking earlier. There are small refiners,
mainly copper refiners, that are set up specifically to extract
very small trace quantities of precious metals and what we would
term critical metals from chipped WEEE, and this comes in in very
small sizes. They are extracting probably 90% of what exists there
but not in terms of certain metals. Mobile phones are a classic
example where they are not set up to extract some of the critical
rare earth metals that exist.
Q56 Stephen Metcalfe:
Do you think, therefore, we need to change the WEEE legislation
to widen the range that it is covered by and perhaps use it to
target some of the more specific critical metals that we are after,
so not just the weight issue, but actually trying to target material
First, the WEEE regulations should be expanded to cover industrial
and commercial waste, yes. Can the WEEE regulations target particular
materials? I am hesitant about that. Once the regulatory framework
is in place, the commercial imperative will drive it because it
is in manufacturers' interestsOEMs' interestto drive
this through, because these materials will and should find their
way back, especially if it is closed loop, into the manufacturing
Q57 Stephen Metcalfe:
As some of these materials are recycled, they lose their properties.
In particular, I am thinking about rare earth magnets. They are
very fragile, they break very easily and as they are recycled
they lose that magnetic property. How easy is it to develop a
recycling policy for materials that recognises different qualities
in different materials? Is it possible to do that? Are we talking
about recycling when actually what we should be doing is finding
alternatives, substitutes, for some of these really rare metals?
I was just reading the KTN material security report. They state
that when you start looking for alternatives you end up using
something that is probably rarer or you end up swapping it with
something that does not have any kind of infrastructure at all
to recover it, whereas before you might have something for which
a system of recovery has been developed. I believe a huge amount
of incentive needs to be built. Take the example of Xerox, the
evidence suggests that they have redesigned their machines so
that they can take bits back and directly use them in other products.
They estimate they can get their products to have up to seven
lives within each recovered component and this process is twice
as profitable as manufacturing in the first instance. In terms
of policy, designers tend not to be clued up on policy. A huge
amount of communication is missing. Relationships with British
Standards, where we are assisting with new sustainable design
guidelines, have great potential.
I came away from the Netherlands with the incentive
to create new conversations with manufacturers, designers, recovery
and recycling facilities. That is where the power is and having
the Government there and legislation in place is really key.
It is not so much a question of recycle or substitute. You have
to research on both because whether recycling is viable or not
depends on the relative costs of the recovered material compared
with the primary material. If the primary material is highly
valued, then you have a big incentive to recover and recycle it.
The question then is: can you develop techniques
that make it economic to recover those secondary materials? While
the value remains high, you can. If you have recovered so much
that the value came down again, there is a balance. When the price
goes high people certainly look for substitutes.
My overall answer is that we need to continue that
long-term research on recovery methods and on substitution, because
if you don't have the expertise on the materials then the beginning
of your whole supply chain doesn't exist and the reason for having
manufacturing and production in the UK is weaker. If you have
knowledge and expertise of the materials, you have the basis and
the beginnings for doing that.
Following on from all the comments, one of the key things is that
directives like the WEEE and End of Life Vehicle have been very
positive in terms of environmental improvements, but we need to
emphasise more and more the whole product life cycle. You can
make decisions about end of life, which might have a marginal
effect or even a detrimental effect on the use phase. Whichever
way you look at it these days, roughly 60% of the environmental
impacts of something is in the use phase, be it automotive, buildings
and so on. We need to be careful that any kind of guidance or
regulations takes that into account. There are tools such as life
cycle assessment to assist with that kind of evaluation. That
is a good thing.
Life cycle assessment tends to look at environmental
issues, carbon and water footprinting and so on. I am very much
of the mindset that we should broaden that to a sustainability
agenda which includes the economics and the social value of these
products as well. We get into a fairly complex discussion about
what is sustainable economically and how you drive that, because,
if you drive sustainable economics in the right way, you will
end up with a more efficient system. I appreciate there is no
simple answer to that, but it is something we should be building
into any policymaking, for sure. Also we must not underestimate
the social value of all the things we are talking about. They
are devices, buildings and consumer products, all of which we
use in our everyday lives. That should not be undervalued or underestimated.
The materials contribution is huge to that.
Q58 Stephen Metcalfe:
Ms Thomas, in the written evidence that the Design Council gave
us it stated: "For every £100 a design-alert business
spends on design, turnover increased by £225." Can you
give us some examples of how this is achieved in companies that
use strategic metals?
In relation to strategic metals, I have been trying to find them.
In terms of the Xerox example, because they have a recovery system
in place they get back their materials, they have managed not
to have to bring in raw materials for that. That was a result
of the design decisions. They designed and built them so that
they could pull them apart easily. Also, their designers were
in touch with their waste manufacturing people, so it was a completely
closed loop. Again, Philips have now set up nine different 'cradle
to cradle' design teams within their group. They also take a different
perspective in that their profit includes areas relating to wellbeing,
so broadening out their definition of profit. Because of these
strategic moves they are in a situation where they can build in
components with all the strategic metals they use within their
microchips, within the coffee machines, knowing they will be able
to recover them and not scrap them or down cycle them or send
them to be recovered in developing countries, their value is not
Q59 Chair: Are
they marketing things like the coffee machine in a way that focuses
on, "It's cool to have a recyclable coffee machine"?
They are, but probably not in the UK because we put less emphasis
on it. If you go to the Netherlands, they do. It is added value.
Q60 Chair: Britain
has tremendous strengths in design and that is recognised across
the world. Is it something that your profession needs to run hard
with, to encourage designers to sell the concept that recycling
is cool, to use the customers' language?
Yes. Maybe not recycling but more designing for recovery.
And then recycling.
Q61 Chair: You
are there to put the language in place because you know your customers
better than I do.
The UK is definitely a leader in terms of design, entrepreneurship
and innovation. We are recognised for that. Because we are small
groups scattered around the UK, we are very thought-led and creative-led
in terms of how we go and find projects, how we go and work with
different manufacturers, so the question is how to promote that
and to push this industry to start talking properly to manufacturing.
What is missing is knowledge - the life cycle analysis knowledge
- the education of what materials they are using, how they are
using it and where it is going to end up, the holistic thinking.
Q62 Stephen Metcalfe:
So education of the designers.
Education of the designers. We rely a lot on their knowledge on
the WEEE directive, for instance, but if we had papers like that
on materials, then we could push them that way and say, "This
is now a law."
Q63 Stephen Metcalfe:
Should the Government be encouraging or legislating to make that
I would say both.
One thing we should be doing is encouraging more engineers and
scientists to have a knowledge of sustainability. Probably what
we shouldn't be doing is asking them to pay higher fees.
I agree with Tony about the content of courses. For sure, the
Institute of Materials, for example, is encouraging much more
life cycle assessment being taught to material scientists, mechanical
engineers and so on. I still think that has not necessarily got
through to the product designers and the architects on the more
creative side of design. One of the things that would improve
things is awareness.
Q64 Chair: At
the moment, the mobile phone industry market is very complicated
because of the packages that are sold on phone use and so on.
If it were possible to encourage the market to look at recovery
of materials as one of the criteria, it would undoubtedly help
shift that market, wouldn't it?
I think so, yes, as long as it can be done economically as well,
because otherwise it just shifts to somewhere else.
Q65 Chair: That's
the problem. It is how you encourage the customer to look at all
the design holistically and buy on the basis of other interests
than simply their short-term financial ones.
Yes. That is absolutely right. If we encourage sustainable purchasing
or sustainable consumption of things, that is the ultimate goal.
It's the goal of Europeans.
Q66 Chair: That
is precisely what the automotive industry is going through at
the moment on trying to create the volume market to justify the
investment in battery technologies. How do you incentivise the
public to think about buying into an early technology?
The automotive industry is a very good case study. We were discussing
outside how we can get the mainstream design group to follow on
from that. How can you incentivise these people to set up a system
and look at all their processes. They can lead by example because
they are looking at how you deconstruct a complicated object like
that. But when you start talking about a toothbrush, a pen, something
that has been designed by a designer, has had a design brief written
for the designer to respond to and has taken a chain of people
to make it, it is a different ballgame because then you go back
to the dispersion of the elements. When we get back to the mobile
phone, even though there are 40 elements in them, they are very
But it leads on to awareness, for example. There is not a great
deal of awareness of the contribution that materials can make
towards sustainable design and improvements. It is quite significant
that there is not an awareness of it. There is lots of naivety
about recycling of materials. Quite a few groups that we have
questioned didn't realise that steel was recyclable, which it
Q67 Stephen Metcalfe:
So what's the best way of raising that awareness, though?
For me it would be awareness, promotional campaigns, education,
university education, and it is simple to build these things into
courses, but you have got to hit the general public as well. It
is not just about academia here. It is about raising people's
awareness. If they want to be more sustainable, there are easier
ways of doing it. Be aware of what materials are and how they
I have been accused of being a Japanophile, but they have done
that since 2000. They engage their civilian population in those
programmes. It is amazing what is possible. They even recycle
disposable cameras. They refurbish a disposable camera so that
it can be used again. There is no reason why we could not make
phones or laptops recyclable and reusable. There are a few more
bits and pieces that people pile on them, but the basic platform
could be refurbished so you would reduce the amount of materials
that you use in the system.
Q68 Stephen Metcalfe:
I have one final question. If we are to change policy and amend
regulation, how do you think that might affect the smaller businesses?
You said that the designers are functioning in relatively small
teams up and down the country. Do you think there is a risk that
by overregulating we could damage that innovation and creativeness,
and would that make us a less attractive country in which either
to work or invest?
Designers always moan and complain about legislation but they
also thrive on it, too. Once you start putting boundaries on where
we can do things, we are lateral thinkers. We enjoy challenges.
That is what we are trained to do. It would probably be very good
for designers because they would start to understand and educate
themselves, obviously depending on what the legislation was. Basically,
there is very little that they can grab hold of. Stephen Mosley
was talking about the FSC accreditation. That has been a very
good driver for communication designers, for instance, to start
looking at their paper as a raw material. So something similar
to that, even though it is not perfect in any way, it is a very
Q69 Stephen Metcalfe:
Are there any other comments?
In terms of legislation, given that we are talking essentially
here of a combination of consumer goods, consumer goods manufacturing,
development and design, this is not a UK-centric activity. We
know it is a world market. Anything that is done in the domestic
context needs to be done very carefully to ensure that competitiveness
is not in any sense eroded. We would encourage promotion and encouragement
rather than, probably, a regulatory solution there.
Chair: Thank you for a
very interesting session.