Economic meltdown threatens Europe’s war on plastic waste

Economic meltdown threatens Europe’s war on plastic waste
Plastic recycling at the Extruplas plant in Portugal. Europe produces 26 million tons of plastic waste each year. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Economic meltdown threatens Europe’s war on plastic waste

Economic meltdown threatens Europe’s war on plastic waste
  • Lower oil prices mean lower virgin plastic prices — and that spells trouble for the recycling industry

OUREM, Portugal: Giving a new life to plastic trash gets Carlos Bento out of bed every morning. But the coronavirus pandemic has seen revenues drop up to 40 percent at Micronipol, the large recycling facility he runs in central Portugal, and it faces an uncertain future.

Micronipol produces recycled polyethylene, the base for plastic bags and bottles. The product is piling up at its warehouses as clients, facing their own economic struggles, shelve their recycling goals. They are opting for cheaper alternatives: non-recycled plastics made from hydrocarbons.
As lockdowns were put in place worldwide, a drop in demand for oil pushed prices to historic lows, making virgin plastics — already becoming cheaper than the recycled equivalent — even more affordable.
“If we are no longer competitive and if we lose cash we have two options: Either someone has to subsidise us so we can keep working or we have to shut down,” said Bento, as he stood near a pile of colorful recycled plastic bales.
Lower virgin plastic prices could spell disaster for the future of European recyclers like Micronipol.
In Europe, virgin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was over 7 percent, or €60 ($71) per ton, cheaper than the recycled equivalent last month, data from S&P Global Platts showed.
Industry group Plastic Recyclers Europe said firms in most EU member states have signalled their recycling facilities have reduced their operations or closed their lines for at least a few months.
“Without well-functioning and profitable plastics recycling there is no alternative, no environmentally sound option for plastic waste management,” said Antonino Furfari, the group’s managing director. “This waste will be incinerated or dumped.”
Piotr Barczak, senior policy officer for waste at the European Environment Bureau, called for a tax on all virgin plastics to eliminate the price gap.
The impact of the pandemic on recyclers is especially concerning at a time when consumption of plastics is expected to double to 600 million tons per year in the coming two decades, according to a report by Zero Waste Europe NGO. And as countries struggle to cope with the economic impact of the health crisis, fears abound that environmental policies are being left behind.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Virgin plastic cheaper than recycled alternative.
● European plastic recyclers struggling to stay afloat.
● Taxing virgin plastic could help industry survive.

EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius told Reuters in a written interview that while the Commission had received relatively few requests for extensions or exemptions from EU environmental rules due to the pandemic, the crisis had a “significant impact” on countries’ administrative capacities.
The EU is to ban a range of single-use plastic items by 2021, a huge ambition which could now be under threat as more and more consumers and restaurants become more dependent on disposable plastic products due to contagion fears.
Portugal’s Environment Secretary of State Ines dos Santos Costa said her government’s ambition to cut disposable plastic products “still stands,” but the pandemic has transformed models of production and consumption worldwide.
Not far from Portugal’s capital Lisbon, recycling sorting facility Amarsul has raised concerns about the vast amounts of plastic gloves and masks it has been receiving.
“If the habit of using disposables continues, we may take a step back we will have to fix later,” said CEO Sandra Silva, adding that a recycling-based economic model “cannot stop because there is a pandemic.”
Europe generates 26 million tons of plastic waste annually, but less than 30 percent of that is collected for recycling. Experts say existing targets to improve plastic recycling could be in danger of not being met.
Sandra Castro, head of Extruplas firm that makes wooden-like outdoor furniture from plastics it recycles, is hoping the current situation is no more than a temporary bump in the road.
“We need the industry to be able to provide a solution to the waste we produce,” Castro said.
But for Sirpa Pietikainen, Finnish member of the European Parliament, the only way to tackle plastic pollution, which some scientists say is fueling climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, is to produce less waste.
“If you thought the coronavirus crisis was bad for the economy, climate change will be 100 times worse — and then you will not only talk about losing GDP points, you will talk about access to medication, water and food,” she said.
“We really need to act now.”


UAE licenses second unit of Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE licenses second unit of Barakah nuclear power plant
Updated 4 min 18 sec ago

UAE licenses second unit of Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE licenses second unit of Barakah nuclear power plant
DUBAI: The nuclear regulator in UAE has issued an operating license for the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant, an official from the regulator said on Tuesday.
The plant in the Al Dhafrah region of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates making up the UAE and the nation’s capital, is the first nuclear power station in the Arab world and part of the Gulf oil producer’s efforts to diversify its energy mix.
Barakah’s Unit 1 was connected to the national power grid in August and in December reached 100 percent of reactor power capacity during testing.
Unit 1’s commercial operations are expected to start this year, Hamad Al Kaabi, deputy chairman of Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and the UAE’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told journalists.
The project has faced delays, some related to training staff as the country builds a nuclear industry from scratch.
Construction on Unit 1 began in 2012 and the plant was expected to start up in 2017, but FANR did not grant a license to the operator Nawah Energy Company until February 2020.
Nawah first applied to FANR for licenses for the two units in 2015.
When completed Barakah, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), will have four reactors with 5,600 megawatts (MW) of total capacity — equivalent to around 25 percent of the UAE’s peak demand.
Construction of Unit 3 is 94 percent complete and Unit 4 is 87 percent complete, Kaabi said.
Asked about security at the plant, Kaabi said measures were in place to protect the site from physical and cyber threats. He did not provide details.

OECD hikes 2021 world growth forecast to 5.6% on vaccine, stimulus rollout

OECD hikes 2021 world growth forecast to 5.6% on vaccine, stimulus rollout
Updated 17 min 57 sec ago

OECD hikes 2021 world growth forecast to 5.6% on vaccine, stimulus rollout

OECD hikes 2021 world growth forecast to 5.6% on vaccine, stimulus rollout
  • The “top policy priority” is to deploy vaccines as quickly as possible, to save lives as well as to speed economic recovery.

PARIS: The OECD sharply hiked its 2021 global growth forecast on Tuesday as the deployment of coronavirus vaccines and a huge US stimulus program greatly improve the economic prospects.
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said it now expects the global economy to grow 5.6 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from its December forecast.
“Global economic prospects have improved markedly in recent months, helped by the gradual deployment of effective vaccines, announcements of additional fiscal support in some countries, and signs that economies are coping better with measures to suppress the virus,” it said in a report.
The recovery will be largely led by the United States thanks to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus program, Laurence Boone, chief economist of the OECD, told AFP.
The OECD sees the US economy growing 6.5 percent this year, a very sharp increase of 3.3 percentage points on its previous forecast, with the world as a whole returning to pre-pandemic output levels by mid-2021.
But for the moment, only China, India and Turkey have surpassed pre-pandemic levels and the picture is very mixed elsewhere.
“Despite the improved global outlook, output and incomes in many countries will remain below the level expected prior to the pandemic at the end of 2022,” said the OECD, which groups the world’s most developed economies.
It said the “top policy priority” is to deploy vaccines as quickly as possible, to save lives as well as to speed economic recovery.
“There are huge and significant risks to our economic projections, most notably the pace of vaccination,” Boone told AFP.
“What we know is the faster countries vaccinate, the quicker they can reopen their economy,” she said.
Britain, which also has rolled out vaccines quickly, got a 0.9 percentage point increase to 5.1 percent — higher than the UK’s own forecast, which was lowered last week.
The eurozone, where vaccination campaigns have been slower, received only a 0.3 percentage point bump to 3.9 percent, as the recoveries in both Italy and France were revised lower.


Abu Dhabi opens region’s first COVID-19 test lab inside an airport

Abu Dhabi opens region’s first COVID-19 test lab inside an airport
Updated 39 min 10 sec ago

Abu Dhabi opens region’s first COVID-19 test lab inside an airport

Abu Dhabi opens region’s first COVID-19 test lab inside an airport
  • assengers arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport through terminals 1 and 3 will be tested at the new facility
  • Results will be available in 90 minutes

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi is set to open the region’s first airport polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing laboratory for COVID-19.


The laboratory will be located within the Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), and will provide quick coronavirus test results in line with global travel standards.

“Through partnering with Pure Health and Tamouh Healthcare, Abu Dhabi International Airport is now able to offer travelers state-of-the-art rapid testing services delivered by a dedicated laboratory facility,” said Shareef Hashim Al-Hashmi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports.

The move comes as airports around the world explore new ways to accelerate the revival of air travel demand, which was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The introduction of the RT-PCR COVID-19 testing is a milestone achievement in our ongoing efforts to facilitate the safe resumption of international air travel and support the recovery of the aviation industry,” Al-Hashimi said.

The 4,000-square-meter testing site has the capacity to test more than 20,000 travelers per day, according to a release.

Passengers arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport through terminals 1 and 3 will be tested at the new facility, where results will be shared via SMS, WhatsApp, and the Alhosn mobile application in 90 minutes.

Those who test negative and are coming from predetermined low-risk countries will not have to self-isolate. Otherwise, quarantine rules will apply – 10 days of self-isolation and mandatory use of quarantine wristband, which will be fitted at the facility.

Abu Dhabi Airports, the operator of AUH, earlier implemented safety mechanisms at the airport as it restores people’s confidence in traveling.

These airport enhancements include touchless elevator technology, thermal scanners with facial recognition capabilities, as well as sterilization tunnels.


Pandemic to stall UAE banks’ recovery in early 2021: A&M report

Pandemic to stall UAE banks’ recovery in early 2021: A&M report
Updated 55 min 26 sec ago

Pandemic to stall UAE banks’ recovery in early 2021: A&M report

Pandemic to stall UAE banks’ recovery in early 2021: A&M report
  • Growth in loans and advances during 2020 slowed sharply to 1.4 percent from 13.2 percent in 2019

DUBAI: The pandemic will continue to affect profitability for banks in the United Arabia Emirates (UAE) in the early quarters of 2021, after a sharp drop in return on equity last year, consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) said on Tuesday.
Return on equity fell to 7.7 percent in 2020 from 13.3 percent the previous year, A&M said in a report on the UAE’s top 10 banks.
“We possibly have not turned the corner,” Asad Ahmed, head of Middle East financial services for A&M told a briefing, saying this goes for banks globally as well as in the UAE.
“In terms of the region and the UAE, 2021 will continue to be a year which does not produce stellar results, but hopefully next year onwards we will see the numbers turn around.”
Growth in loans and advances during 2020 slowed sharply to 1.4 percent from 13.2 percent in 2019, the report said.
2021 is expected to be less volatile than the past year, but banks might see a deterioration in their asset quality after the completion of the central bank’s stimulus scheme later this year, it said.
Total loan-loss provisions jumped 79 percent year-on-year to 28.1 billion dirhams ($7.65 billion) for the top 10 UAE banks last year, as a challenging economic environment and banks’ exposure to several high-profile cases boosted impairments, A&M said.
UAE banks have been hurt by their exposure to hospital operator NMC Health, which disclosed more than $4 billion in hidden debt after short-seller Muddy Waters questioned its financial reporting.
The hospital operator filed for administration in London in April last year.


Vodafone towers unit set for 14.7-bn euro valuation

Vodafone towers unit set for 14.7-bn euro valuation
Updated 09 March 2021

Vodafone towers unit set for 14.7-bn euro valuation

Vodafone towers unit set for 14.7-bn euro valuation

LONDON: British mobile phone giant Vodafone on Tuesday announced the price range for the upcoming German stock market flotation of its towers business, valuing the unit at up to 14.7 billion euros ($17.4 billion).
The float of up to one-quarter of Vantage Towers comes amid increasing demand for mobile telecommunications connectivity across Europe, driven by data growth, 5G roll-out and regulatory coverage obligations.
Mobile phone giants are also floating or selling off their tower businesses in order to slash debt.
German-headquartered Vantage Tower will have its first day of trading on the Frankfurt stock market on or around March 18, with a price-per-share range of between 22.5 euros and 29 euros, Vodafone said in a statement.
The initial public offering (IPO) “implies a total market capitalization for Vantage Towers of 11.4 billion euros to 14.7 billion euros,” it added.
Digital Colony, a digital infrastructure investor and operator based in the US, has agreed to be a cornerstone investor in the IPO, alongside RRJ, a global equity fund based in Singapore, with commitments of 500 million euros and 450 million euros, respectively.
“The Vantage Towers IPO is moving ahead at pace,” Vantage chief executive Vivek Badrinath said in the statement.
“Today’s price range announcement is accompanied by the news that two leading global investors have committed to cornerstone our IPO with the purchase of 950 million euros of shares at the offer price.”
Vantage Towers’ portfolio includes 82,000 macro sites — towers, masts and rooftops — across 10 European countries.
“Demand for data and connectivity across Europe is powering growth in the towers sector,” Badrinath said.
“Our superior grid and leading market positions mean we are well placed to benefit from this growth and our recent financial results highlighted the good commercial and operational momentum across the business,” he added.
Vodafone said it was targetting proceeds of up to 2.8 billion euros from the IPO, helping to reduce its debt pile.
Earlier this year, heavily-indebted Telefonica agreed to sell its telephone masts in Europe and Latin America to US-based telecom infrastructure firm American Towers for 7.7 billion euros.
The Spanish group said it would use the proceeds to cut debt by 4.6 billion euros.
Vodafone meanwhile rebounded into profit during the first half of its financial year, or six months to September.
During the same period a year earlier, the group had suffered a hefty loss after India’s Supreme Court ordered telecoms companies to pay long-standing licensing fees.