Unfortunately, rivers, riverbanks, lakes, swamps and flood plains across the country have been a traditional and convenient, though illegal, dumping ground for all types of vehicles and automotive parts, primarily old tires and rims. Much of this practice has been curtailed through environmental education and stiff fines, but there remain tens of thousands of old, rusting vehicles and parts yet to be recovered and recycled.
However, the great clean up of American rivers and wetlands is well underway and recovering lots of autos, scrap metals and trash. This relatively recent phenomenon began to gain public interest in the mid 1960s. It became more serious in 1973 with the formation of American Rivers, which has grown to become the leading conservation organization that supports healthy rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature. Today, American Rivers has offices in Washington, DC and around the country with more than 65,000 members and supporters.
A primary step in undoing the damage of the past is cleaning out man-made debris from rivers, streams and wetlands – old cars, trucks, even school buses being the largest-sized culprits. It’s a dirty, hard job, mostly being done by groups of volunteers across the country. Each year they are recovering thousands of tons of ferrous and nonferrous metals, rubber, glass and plastics.
American Rivers is also a sponsor of the National River Cleanup, the most successful stream clean up program in the country. It is a year-long event that taps into the civic pride of tens of thousands of volunteers across the country. Since its launch by America Outdoors in 1991, more than 900,000 volunteers have participated in thousands of clean ups across the country, covering more than 162,000 miles of waterways. These clean ups have removed more than 8.7 million pounds of litter and debris from rivers and streams. National River Cleanup 2009 was the most successful year to date, with more organizers and clean ups than ever before. ...read more
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Domestic shredders starving for feedstock
Today, a large steel shredding plant equipped with the latest available downstream nonferrous technology can easily represent a capital investment of $20 to $25 million dollars. To operate one profitably, the owner needs a consistent flow of raw material. Hopefully, a supply that comes from not too far away and closely matches the capacity of the machine during hours of operation.
This steady stream of material pays for the labor and overhead costs associated with running the shredder. The expense of acquiring scrap and transportation are the other major factors in the profitability equation. That explains why shredders are habitually hungry for scrap. Keeping them satiated is a year-round, never-ending job and the primary focus of management.
It has been particularly tough for shredders in a slowly recovering economy, but there are optimistic signs that recent increases in new vehicle sales will yield more old bodies for the shredders. From November 2009 to November 2010, total United States light vehicle sales (passenger cars and light trucks) were up 16.9 percent.
Liberal government incentives designed to encourage purchases of the new crop of electric vehicles entering the market in 2011 are also likely to drive greater numbers of older vehicles to the scrap yard. While overall domestic manufacturing has been slowly recovering since the financial crisis, it remains weak. In many areas of the country, manufacturers are generating less industrial scrap and some shredders are suffering from constricted supply.
“Currently, flow to our shredder has been steady, but feed material is one of our continuous challenges,” said a facility manager at Alter Metal Recycling. He’s referring to their 5,000 hp Texas Shredder that consumes 100 tons per hour. “We are generally trying to be creative and are constantly looking for new sources. Every little bit helps. If there’s a new source and someone comes up with a proposal, you look at it and try to make it work. Waste facilities are now separating trash streams as much as possible. The scrap you may get from a waste separation stream or cleanup is not going to be prime scrap, but it certainly has value and the shredder will get out the metals.” ...read more