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October 2007

Steel recycling tonnage at second highest level in previous decade

The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) announced that the recycling rate for steel is 68.7 percent. This means that more than seventy two million tons of domestic steel scrap was charged into furnaces, both in the United States and abroad, to make new steel products.

As worldwide production of steel has continued to escalate, so too has the demand for quality steel scrap. This increased demand has had some notable consequences. Prices for steel scrap remain significantly above the historical average price, and as a result, inventories of steel scrap across America are at their lowest levels since World War II.

“As price goes up due to domestic and international demand for scrap, the collection effort increases in the local communities such that scrap peddlers go further and further out from the metro areas to gather scrap,” said Bill Heenan, president of the Steel Recycling Institute. “This intensive effort has drawn down scrap reserves that typically accumulate during periods of lower scrap demand.”

One thing that will help meet this need for increased supply is that an increasing number of cities, including New York, Portland, and Seattle, are expanding their curbside programs to include light ferrous (iron) materials, such as toaster ovens, clothes hangers, and irons. The Steel Recycling Institute, through its regional operations staff, will continue to work with communities to increase the volume of steel being recycled and diverted from landfills.

“We are actively working with recycling coordinators to educate them about the benefits of additional sources of steel scrap in their recycling programs,” said Heenan. “At the same time, we are increasing public and institutional education efforts to maximize the volume of steel that they are recycling so it gets back to the mills where it is needed.”

Steel cans, as well as steel intensive appliances, automobiles and construction materials continue to hold at, or near, historic highs in 2006. Naturally, most durable consumer goods and construction materials are not available for recycling since they remain in service for many years.