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Higher prices boost value of US scrap exports

US exports of recycled commodities during the first eight months of 2021 were more than 60% higher than the same period in 2020, according to the latest Commerce Department trade data. 

The figures are reported by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) which says the value of these commodities in 2021 were US$ 21.06 billion (EUR 18.19 billion), up from US$ 13.1 billion. Scrap exports are on track for their best performance in dollar terms since 2011, when US recycled commodity exports reached US$ 32.7 billion.

The largest growth markets compared to the same period in 2020 are:

  • Canada up US$ 968 million to US$ 3.0 billion
  • UK up US$ 834 million to US$ 2.0 billion
  • Mexico up US$ 827 million to US$ 1.4 billion
  • Germany up US$ 723 million to US$ 1.8 billion
  • India up US$ 669 million to US$ 1.4 billion

Other major growth markets this year have included Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, Italy, and Hong Kong. China, seventh in the list, bought recycled commodities valued at US$ 1.1 billion during Jan-Aug 2021.

ISRI also reports that exports of recycled iron and steel (excluding stainless and alloy steels) were up 9% year-on-year by quantity during Jan-Aug 2021 to nearly 11.9 million tonnes. In dollar terms, these exports were up 73% over the corresponding period to US$ 4.7 billion because of elevated price levels in 2021. 

Markets that have experienced reduced tonnages this year have been helped by higher prices. Shipments to Turkey this year, for example, are down 25% by quantity but up 26% in dollar terms.

Meanwhile total US aluminium scrap exports during Jan-Aug 2021 increased 14% by quantity to 1.3 million tonnes and were up 77% by value to US$ 2.4 billion.

In other positive news from the US, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported its Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) improved from 59.9 in August to 61.1 in September, the 16th consecutive month of growth since the contraction in April 2020.

But according to Timothy R. Fiore, chair of the ISM’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, US industry still faces major challenges. ‘Panelists reported that their companies and suppliers continue to deal with an unprecedented number of hurdles to meet increasing demand,’ he said. ‘All segments of the manufacturing economy are impacted by record-long raw materials lead times, continued shortages of critical materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products.’

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