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June 2004

69 Million Tons Recycled in 2003 Makes Steel the Most Recycled Material in America

San Francisco, CA— The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) declared that the recycling rates for a variety of steel products increased slightly in 2003, maintaining steel’s preeminence as the most recycled material in the nation and around the world.

SRI reported that steel continues to be the backbone of the recycling infrastructure throughout the United States and that almost 69 million tons of steel were recycled last year. These millions of tons, which found their way to steel mills for recycling rather than landfills, resulted in an overall recycling rate of 70.7 percent, virtually the same as in 2002.

Steel-dominated consumer products, such as cans, cars, and appliances, however, showed slight increases, which is a result of the increased value of steel scrap during the second half of 2003. Over 14.2 million tons of steel from end of life vehicles was recycled in 2003, resulting in a 102.9 percent rate, up 2.3 percent from the 100.6 percent registered in 2002. When it comes to those products that typically end up on the curb, such as steel cans, and steel-intensive appliances, more of these commodities found their way to curbside bins and recycling centers than in 2002.

Over 2.6 million tons of appliances and almost 1.6 millions tons of steel cans were recycled last year, resulting in recycling rates of 89.7 and 60.2 percent, respectively.

“There is no doubt that peddlers (scrap men who roam the communities looking for metals such as cans and appliances) helped push both the steel can and appliance recycling rates up last year. They took advantage of the increased value of these commodities,” said Bill Heenan, President of the Steel Recycling Institute. He added, “The increased value of steel scrap last year certainly helped keep America beautiful as these same peddlers roamed the streets, alleys, embankments, and empty lots looking for recyclables.”

In 2003, we continued to see the trend of increased ferrous recycling in the construction and demolition arena. Heavy structural beams’ and plates’ recycling was up slightly to 96 percent, from a 95 percent level in 2002, while recycling of rebar continued to grow and is estimated to have finished 2003 at 60 percent, up from 57.5 percent the previous year.

“Based on the value of scrap through the first four months of 2004, we are well on our way to continuing the upward trend of recycling rates for steel commodities this year,” Heenan said. “This provides our industry with a precious raw material that dramatically reduces our energy consumption and our need for virgin raw materials.”

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