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Iosif Vangelatos, General Manager, and Mirjana Radić, Finance Manager, Inos Balkan

Circular Economy Is Our Future

It seems that the recycling industry will be among the top beneficiaries over the coming years. Demand for secondary raw materials will be high and stable, while adequate financing will secure the necessary capital expenditure for capacity expansion projects.

Given that your company has been present in Serbia since 200s, do you get the impression that a lot has improved, that awareness is shifting; that we now grasp the fact that waste is a commodity and a valuable resource?

During all these years, we’ve been witnessing the transformation of Serbia in political, economic and social terms. Environmental awareness is also part of those reforms. The appropriate legal framework is in place and citizens’ awareness is increasing. People do now understand that natural resources are not infinite and that our quality of life depends strongly on how efficiently we utilise those resources. Serbian society is realising that we need to reengineer many areas of human activities. We need to rethink how we cultivate the land and how we breed animals; how we produce food and energy and how we utilise our waste. The economic model is no longer linear. The principles of the circular economy are a vital component in the effort to decrease the environmental impact of human activities and, of course, waste is a valuable resource and commodity.

Despite Serbia not being an EU member state, lots of work is being done in an effort to harmonise laws regulating environmental protection and the circular economy. Would you say that we are on the right track?

Though Serbia is not yet an EU member state, it has signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU – which has been in force since September 2013 – and Serbia was granted EU candidate status in March 2012. The SAA represents the necessary legal framework or tool for the improvement of cooperation with EU institutions. The SAA creates the required ecosystem for the country to adopt all essential reforms, including environmental protection policies, and thus achieve integration with the EU acquis. Some might argue that the process is slow, but I believe strongly that we are on the right track.

The VIOHALCO Goup has been present in Serbia since 2003 and is this year celebrating the 15th anniversary of its acquisition of Inos Balkan, a 70-year-old company sourcing secondary raw materials to service the national and regional metal industry

As recyclers, we are witnessing the continuing efforts of the Serbian government to create an appropriate legal framework, while at the same time securing the financing necessary to support the reforms. Executives with high technical and administrative capacities are now forming the management team of the Ministry of Environment and the old bureaucratic administrative model is giving way to a modern, flexible and transparent regulatory framework.

You belong to one of the fastest growing industries. Is this also demonstrated by the fact that ever more attention is being paid to promoting and developing the circular economy model?

As the world economy is rapidly recovering from the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, huge and growing demand for industrial commodities will form the landscape for the years to come. States all over the world have adopted enormous financial packages to support their economies and boost financial recovery. Projects that will lead to an economy of zero CO2 emissions are dominating those governmental stimulus packages and it seems that our industry will be among the ones to benefit the most over the coming years. Demand for secondary raw materials will be high and stable, while adequate financing will secure the necessary capital expenditure for capacity expansion projects.

Your work requires good roads and a stable economic situation, but also good, dedicated workers. Are you lacking any of those factors?

The performance of a business organisation is correlated to some basic aspects. Human resources and innovation, access to financial markets and low transaction costs, public infrastructures and rule of law, political and macroeconomic stability are among the most vital. Serbia is clearly orientated towards providing an attractive business environment for foreign investments, but we need to address the lack of skilled employees urgently.

Serbia is clearly orientated towards providing an attractive business environment for foreign investments, but we need to address the lack of skilled employees urgently

Your company is among the five largest operators in the Serbian recycling industry, and thus contributes significantly to enhancing the country’s export potential. Do you plan to continue increasing your capacities?

The Western Balkans in general, and Serbia in particular, are of vital importance to our group. We are a long-term investor in the country and are planning our steps in Serbia in alignment with the business expansion strategy of our group. Over the course of the last six years, we have managed to triple the quantities of secondary raw materials that we are processing and we aim to achieve even higher quantities. We are exploiting all potential supply channels, aiming for bigger quantities and lower transportation costs. Furthermore, we are investing in new facilities and equipment that will enable us to achieve our targets.

Inos Balkan is also known for its strict environmental protection policies and a policy of zero tolerance. Do you succeed in adhering to all the postulates that you set for yourself?

Our company, Inos Balkan, is a 70-year-old company sourcing secondary raw materials to service the national and regional metal industry. Inos Balkan is owned by Viohalco – a Euronext listed, Greek owned, metal processing conglomerate that is extremely keen to invest continuously throughout the region, co-investing with the EBRD and the IFC. Viohalco owns and operates aluminium, copper, brass, zinc and steelworks, and manufactures all kinds of cables, as well as pipes for oil and gas plants.

Inos Balkan, as a Viohalco company, conducts its business activities under a strict set of corporate principles, inducing full compliance with all legislative frameworks, i.e., environmental, financial and labour laws and regulations. In this context, Viohalco carries out extensive and frequent internal audits of its subsidiaries to check for full adherence to the prescribed procedures. For Inos, the environmental compliance policy is a principle, part of our corporate values portfolio, and not an obligation, which certainly distinguishes us from our competitors.

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