Maja Živković, General Manager, Steel Impex Ltd

Waste Is A Valuable Commodity

Steel Impex is a leader in the region when it comes to waste management, and at the same time the only recycling centre in Serbia that deals with the storage and treatment of various wastes. Steel Impex has 450 suppliers and treats them with a lot of respect and care

Maja Živković, General Manager, said that 2020 results show that their decisions were good. She is pleased to announce that Steel Impex is currently developing and investing in their 3rd recycling facility and collection point in the industrial zone in Belgrade.

You realised two decades ago that waste can be a valuable commodity, and you treat it as such. What does waste mean for the Serbian state, but also for us, as citizens?

Although waste is a commodity for us, it is a sum of everything from old to new, from surplus to remains, from people or companies. Currently, waste for Serbia is a project in development, but still not fully using its potential. Promotion of primary sorting in households, implementation of knowledge about environment protection has to happen simultaneously with green investments and environmental solutions for existing issues. With the aim to reach the full potential of our knowledge and investments, our laws, regulations and rule books must be synchronised with EU laws. We must not forget about the socioeconomic aspect of recycling. Waste is an endless source of goods that are being traded daily – from deepsea cargos to small local companies. Its existence on the stock market defines its impact on the world economy.

How far have you progressed on the implementation of your latest investment, which relates to the purchase, installing and obtaining of permits for waste rubber/tyres?

We are known as a company that invests constantly in recycling centres, new machines… Our tire recycling facility is now completely operational. We did have some setbacks, due to the pandemic of Covid-19, related to delivery and commissioning delays. By reusing ferrous fractions from the treatment in our ferrous division, an additional value is brought for us. We are satisfied that our projected investment has proven to be a success – as we’re able to close the loop by creating the final product from the waste.

We can proudly say that we did not close any job positions, but instead, we opened new ones and hired more people to work full time

Is it easier to handle the competition on our market, where the rules of the game aren’t completely clear, or on the European market, where some of the world’s largest companies dealing with waste collection and processing operations?

It’s more challenging to compete in big markets as there are more strict rules, regulations, paperwork, and internal rules to be presented and followed, which are not mandatory in Serbia. Also, it’s definitely easier to operate in markets where rules are clear and there are no grey zones. Put simply, when rules are followed possibilities for mistakes are minimal.

With the absence of steady local demand and secure payments, we are mostly exportorientated. We have vast supplies of waste, but unfortunately not enough local buyers. Otherwise it would be most economical to sell locally without paying the cost of transpor,t as it accounts for 10 – 15% of the value. Because of this, we are encouraging all local buyers to be more open towards local suppliers, to more closely cooperate with them, listen to their needs and always follow global market prices.

As a member of the biggest recycling and environmental bodies, such as EURIC (European Recycling Industries Confederation – Brussels), ISRI (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries- Washington), BIR (Bureau of International Recycling- Brussels), NALED (National Alliance for Local Economic Development – Belgrade), we are attending workshops, webinars, and annual conferences. This is enabling us to stay informed, follow the newest changes in the sector, and to push ourselves to be more competent in this market.

It is important for every business to have a good network of partners and suppliers, but in your business it’s almost crucially decisive. Is it thanks to them that you operate excellently throughout Serbia, the Balkans and the EU?

Our company, Steel Impex, has 450 suppliers. We treat our suppliers with equal respect, and by doing this we ‘ve made sure that during our growth they have also grown. Even though our internal rules are overly strict for this market, our supplier network is not decreasing, on the contrary, it is constantly expanding. Our suppliers know that by cooperating with us their business is safe. We have a reputation as a prompt and steady payer, a fair market competitor, and there is a big fleet of trucks at their disposal.

Serbia is a great country with huge potential for waste management – based on a good geographical position in the European continent. Although Republic of Serbia is an inland country, it’s extremely well connected with land, air, and river. Considering all these advantages, we ourselves are promoting and open-handedly welcoming new companies in our industry. By following our vision, we are inviting more companies to our sector to strengthen our industry and the economy. Small strong companies are the ones that are building up the whole economy.

The Republic of Serbia is a great country with huge potential for waste management, based on a good geographical position in the European continent

The global pandemic has on the one hand, reduced the amount of waste available, while, on the other hand, demand for recycled materials has also fallen. How did it impact on your work? Have you fully adapted to doing business under these altered circumstances?

Just like the rest of the world, we have also been affected by the pandemic – in something completely unknown. Our business didn’t stop, but it certainly had some setbacks. In the beginning, when there was a curfew, it was logistically quite challenging to organize all the daily operations, including collections, loadings, and deliveries. From our side, we did our best to protect our workers and to make a safe environment for work. We can proudly say that we did not close any job positions, but instead, we opened new ones and hired more people to work full time. Our 2020 results show us that our decisions were good.

As previously mentioned, we have completed an investment in the tyre recycling line in Kraljevo. Additionally, we’ve expanded our Novi Sad operation by adding a facility of 7,000 m² in which we invested 750,000 euros by purchasing new Lefort 600t scrap shear, handling equipment and additions to the fleet. Lastly, and very gratefully, we are pleased to announce that we are currently developing and investing in our 3rd recycling facility and collection point in the industrial zone in Belgrade.

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