Bureau of International Recycling
The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) is a global recycling industry association representing more than 700 companies from the private sector and 40 national trade federations from 70 different countries. The organisation serves as a platform to promote business relations and recycling among industry and to liaise with policy makers.
As part of its mission, BIR tackles the following important and fundamental issues:
- Market: promote international trade in an environmentally sound manner in both recycled materials and recycling technology
- Environment: aiming for lower energy consumption, reducing CO2 emissions and preserving the planet’s natural resources
- Economy: help drive tomorrow’s sustainable management of resources
BIR represents the industry in discussions with supra-national organisations such as the European Commission, and in working with the International Maritime Bureau to help combat container theft. It also provides data on the recycling industry to organisations such as the OECD.
Founded in 1948, the BIR (originally called the Bureau International de la Récupération) is the oldest international association in the recycling sector. Following the second world war, when primary and secondary raw materials were extremely scarce, a handful of leading private recycling companies from the Benelux countries called for the creation of an international organisation to overcome trade barriers and to facilitate cross-border business, principally to supply steel mills, foundries and paper mills. This initiative was therefore was started in Europe and was eventually expand its reach to the worldwide stage.
The process started in March 1948 when leading recyclers met in Amsterdam. Following this first meeting, the presidents of the Belgian and Dutch scrap organisations invited Luxembourg, France and Great Britain to join BIR. Later, the same invitation would be extended to the Scandinavian countries.
BIR soon became acknowledged by national and international bodies, as well as by governments. Other countries applied for membership including Switzerland, the USA and Sweden. In 1953, during the BIR Convention in Paris, the Federal Republic of Germany also joined.
In 1971 BIR moved its headquarters from Paris to Brussels, the seat of the European Union (EU), and this move brought with it some changes to the organisation - in particular, the formation of three independent European scrap trade associations (called today EFR, EUROMETREC and ERPA) which were created to look after the interests of their specific recycling sectors within the EU and to represent the recycling industry at the EU Commission.
On a world level, BIR continued to expand to other non-EU countries, and in particular into Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia, eventually changing name to become the Bureau of International Recycling. Subsequently, new communications programmes and tools were developed and direct membership from commercial enterprises was encouraged, particularly from countries where there were no national federations.