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Steel Production Still Rising

Steel production rose again in September, both in the US and abroad.

At 74.8 million net tons, domestic raw steel production was 3.8% higher than a year ago for the year-to-date through Oct. 28, according to American Iron and Steel Institute statistics. Capability utilization was at 74.6% compared with 72.2% a year ago.

World crude steel production increased 5.6% to 141.4 million tonnes (Mt) in September from the same period in 2016, the World Steel Association (worldsteel) reported. Production also rose by 5.6% through the first nine months of 2017, reaching 1,266.9 Mt globally.

Strong production in China contributed to the overall increases. China’s production increased 5.3% to 71.8 Mt in September and 6.3% to 638.7 Mt for the first nine months.

The US produced 8.6% more, 6.7 Mt in total, of crude steel in September than it did last year. US production was up 3.1%, to 61.5 Mt for the first nine months, according to worldsteel.

Regionally, for the first nine months, crude steel production increased by:

  • 2.0% in Oceania;
  • 3.5% in North America;
  • 4.1% in the European Union;
  • 5.9% in Asia;
  • 8.0% in South America;
  • 13.5% in Other Europe countries;
  • 13.8% in Africa; and
  • 14.2% in the Middle East.

Steel production was flat (0.0 percent) in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Capacity utilization among the 66 countries that report to worldsteel was 73.5% in September, which was 2.8 percentage points higher than a year ago and 0.6 percentage points more than in August.

Photo courtesy of worldsteel


E-scrap market expanding

Efficiently extracting precious metals is key to profitability for recyclers.

The growing market for e-scrap shows no signs of slowing as virtually everything these days has some sort of tech component.

Recycling electronics reduces harmful waste and chemicals. It also helps meet the demand for the materials needed to produce new electronics.

For example, our cars utilize more electronics today than they did 10 years ago, like safety and blind-spot detection devices. Technology will become even more prevalent as automobile manufacturers like Tesla use it to support their self-driving, electric vehicles.

Here are just a few examples of how the market for e-scrap is expanding.

  • The amount of global e-waste is expected to grow by 8 percent per year. (The Balance)

  • The value of e-scrap generated globally is projected to grow at about 23 percent per year, reaching more than $76 billion by 2022. (Recycling Today)

  • The e-scrap recycling industry provides a boost of approximately $20.6 billion, including exports of $1.45 billion, to the U.S. economy and employs more than 45,000 full-time employees. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

There is a downside, however. Extracting the precious metals that are inside electronics is difficult. This is where the relationship between the recyclers and reclaimers is important.

  • The best way to make the process of recycling electronics as smooth as possible is to have a useful strategy for dismantling.

  • In order to receive the highest yield, you must prepare the materials first and separate if necessary. This can be heavily labor intensive so you have to make sure that what you are purchasing is worth the labor cost.

  • Some of the e-scrap contains other recyclable materials such as steel, aluminum, and wires. These materials should be removed first and recycled separately.

Recycling electronics also can be quite hazardous if not done properly. It is crucial to learn about what materials and chemicals can be harmful in order to prevent danger to employees. Some examples of these chemicals are beryllium, cadmium, and mercury.

You might be able to use thermal reduction to reduce your labor costs for extracting precious metals. This process is efficient and less harmful to the environment as a whole.

However, if you are not near a thermal reduction facility it can be quite costly to send all of your e-scrap to them. E-scrap overall can be a profitable venture but the benefits must outweigh the costs.


Database Helps E-scrap Recycling

A new online tool could make e-scrap recycling easier.

Recyclers and scrappers can now get breakdowns of the types of recyclable materials in a device, as well as estimates of the quantities.

The Urban Mine Platform displays all available data on products put on the market, stocks, composition and waste flows for electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), vehicles and batteries. Though the data is drawn from European countries, the breakdowns also are applicable to e-scrap recycling in the US.

E-scrap recycling efforts have been slowed in part by the difficulty of extracting rare earth minerals from electronic devices. Recyclers must know which electronics contain such metals and where they are located within those devices.

Developed by the ProSUM consortium (Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes), Urban Mine Platform breaks down data by types of electronics and includes estimates of the weight of different materials, some currently recoverable and some not, used in them, Resource Recycling wrote about how the tool provides a map of valuable commodities in e-scrap.

This information is crucial for those who are already in the e-scrap market or are looking to join. Recyclers can make better purchasing decisions when they know the average or estimated weight of the precious metals in devices.

Urban Mine Platform took three years to create and used more than 800 source documents from different electronic manufacturers. The database will continue to be updated with future devices to provide users with the best information available.

The database could help make e-scrap recycling more common in the US by providing regulators and recyclers with more information on what can be recycled and how.  Some states have been expanding their e-scrap recycling initiatives to prevent waste from sitting in landfills and keep chemicals from seeping into the ground.

For instance, New York has been improving its e-scrap process in hopes of diverting e-scrap to recyclers and re-users instead of the landfill. Since 2011, it has successfully diverted 520 million pounds of e-scrap from landfills through the New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act, which holds manufacturers and retailers accountable for properly disposing of their e-waste. New York plans to further boost its efforts to reduce e-waste, Recycling Today reported.

The new Urban Mine Platform e-scrap database could allow states such as New York to optimize the recovery rates of precious metals by recyclers and re-users.


China Drives Out Copper Processors

China’s clampdown on copper imports is driving processors to other Asian countries.

Exports could follow.

Suppliers and processors of scrap copper have sought opportunities elsewhere since China lowered the permissible contaminant threshold for copper imports to 1 percent.

Seeking to protect its environment and improve its domestic recycling efforts, China tightened restrictions on plastic, paper and copper imports as of Jan. 1. In addition to negatively impacting recyclers in the US and other nations that relied on exporting materials to China, companies inside of China that were dependent on purchasing, refining, and selling the scrap materials that were imported have been affected as well.

China has relied on imports to meet around half of its demand for copper, Reuters reported in an article on how companies are looking to process copper abroad. China uses copper for conductivity in the electronics that it produces.

Given that China shut down all processing plants that dealt below a certain threshold of pounds, the leaders of those companies are working towards moving their businesses. Many of them have already moved or are planning to move their companies to Southeast Asian countries.

Their goals are to intake as much of the excess scrap materials as possible, refine them, and then sell them to China. This is essentially what they were doing before but now they are required to ship from a separate country.

The movement of copper processors from China helps recyclers in the US because it provides a pathway for them to still export materials, even though the process will take longer. Large and small companies are using this opportunity to continue to operate their business and still have relations with China.

The current downside is that the market for copper was already growing in Southeast Asia. Even together, the potential scrap-processing destinations for the diverted copper, like Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, and India, may lack the combined capacity of China.

Also, some companies are hesitating to invest in other countries in fear that China could backpedal on its tighter restrictions on imports, thereby rendering as useless any processing location elsewhere in Asia.

Related reading:

China’s Plastic Imports Shrink

China Eases Scrap Ban

China Scrap Ban Looms



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