For more than 150 years, steel scrap and iron scrap has been recycled to make new products. Foundries and the steelmaking industry are dependent on the scrap metal industry to provide readily-available products that help create new items for manufacturing.
In 2017, raw steel production was up 4%, to an estimated 82 million tons, with steel mill capacities at 75%. Net shipments of total steel mill products were 6% higher, at 83 million tons.
These production levels were possible because the recycling rate for automobiles has been above 100%. In 2014, which is the latest year statistics are available, the auto recycling rate was 106%. This indicates that more recycling is occurring than the domestic product of new vehicles.
In the construction industry, the recycling rate for plates and beams was 98%. For rebar, the recycling rate was 70%. For steel cans, the recycling rate was 67%.
There are two primary segments in the scrap metal industry to consider: ferrous and non-ferrous. That means the former has iron and the latter does not.
It is important to note that most global scrap metal industry statistics exclude China, even though the country is the world’s largest producer of steel.
Important Scrap Metal Industry Statistics
#1. Recycled scrap consists of 58% post-consumer products that are considered to be obsolete or outdated. 24% of this material is prompt scrap, which is produced in manufacturing plants which create steel. 18% of the industry involves home scrap, which is produced by current operations. (USGS)
#2. In 2015, the average composite delivered price of No. 1 heavy-melting scrap was $213.46 per metric ton. In January, the price peaked at $315, while in November, it dropped to $139.57. (USGS)
#3. The unit value for total ferrous scrap exports, with exclusions, decreased by 22% to $314 per ton in 2015. The unit value of total imports decreased by one-third, reaching $272 per metric ton. (USGS)
#4. The trade surplus in scrap metal for the U.S. with the rest of the world was 9.2 million tons, which held a total value of $3.1 billion. This represented a 17% decrease in the quantity of the trade surplus and a 31% decrease in its value. (USGS)
#5. In 2015, the U.S. exported more steel scrap metal and iron scrap than any other country, reaching 13 million tons. Japan, Germany, and the UK all exported more than 7 million to each. Russia and France both topped 5 million tons of scrap metal exports. (World Steel Association)
#6. Turkey imported the most scrap metal, purchasing 16. 3 million tons of it. India imported 6.7 million tons, while South Korea imported 5.6 million tons. Italy, Germany, and Belgium all imported more than 4 million tons each. (World Steel Association)
#7. Global GDP growth in the scrap metal industry was 3.0% in 2018, reflecting a steady increased experienced since 2015, when it was at 2.4%. (World Bank)
#8. The rate of GDP growth in China for the scrap metal industry was an estimated 6.9% in 2015. In India, GDP growth was 7.5% for the industry. (World Bank)
#9. The world capacity for scrap metal is an estimated 125 million metric tons. This figure includes an estimated 16 million tons of idled capacity. (Midrex Technologies)
#10. The total value of the ferrous scrap industry in the United States was $18.3 billion. For non-ferrous scrap, the value topped $30 billion in 2014. (The Balance)
#11. The scrap metal industry helps to reduce the energy requirements that are necessary to produce new raw materials for construction. Recycled aluminum takes 95% less energy to create than new aluminum. Recycled copper requires 90% less energy. Even recycled steel requires 56% less energy. (The Balance)
#12. Being able to recycle just 1 ton of steel means using 2,500 fewer pounds of iron ore, 1,400 fewer pounds of coal, and 120 fewer pounds of limestone. (The Balance)
#13. In terms of total volume, the United States recycled about 67 million metric tons of ferrous metals in 2015. The largest source of this scrap metal came from automobiles, as 11 million units were recycled. (The Balance)
#14. Recovered non-ferrous scrap generated 8 million metric tons of metals in 2014. (The Balance)
#15. In 2017, the total economic activity generated by scrap metal recycling in the United States rose to $117 billion. (GLE Scrap)
#16. The scrap industry produces over $13 billion in tax revenues for state and local governments, creating over 534,000 direct employment opportunities. (GLE Scrap)
#17. 90% of total manganese consumption is associated with global crude steel production. More than 1.7 billion metric tons of crude steel is produced in the world every year. (Statista)
#18. The world’s largest steel company is ArcelorMittal, which generates revenues of $57 billion annually from their Luxembourg headquarters. (Statista)
#19. U.S. steel production levels average about 82 million metric tons per year. (Statista)
#20. Steel concrete reinforcing bar production levels in 2017 reached 5.8 million metric tons in the United States. (Statista)
#21. In 2016, when there were 1.6 billion metric tons of crude steel produced, the consumption of steel scrap reached 560 million metric tons. (Statista)
#22. 406 million metric tons of scrap purchases are made from the industry each year for the purpose of steelmaking. (Statista)
Scrap Metal Industry Trends and Analysis
The reason why the scrap metal industry is such a powerful component of modern construction is that many metals can be recycled repeatedly. The process of recycling, when performed properly, creates zero degradation of the metal properties. That means old products can be turned into raw materials for new products while carbon footprints can be minimized.
More than 5 million metric tons of aluminum are recovered each year. About 2 million metric tons of copper are recycled. Millions of tons more of other various metals are handled by the scrap metal industry as well. There is a lot of value in this metal, which is why it continues to be a strong industry, even in mature markets.
There is also an impressive level of growth which could occur in this industry. Two-thirds of the metals that the United Nations has identified as being available for recycling have a recovery rate that is below 50%. Although improving these rates would require waste management and infrastructure investments, the improved efficiency rates could offset many of those costs.
The scrap metal industry continues to be a global success. We all need to put in the work to make sure that continues to be the case.