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US scrap exports this year well down

The latest US trade data shows that overall scrap exports from the country during 2020 are down 10% year-on-year compared to the same period in 2019.

Figures released by the Census Bureau and the International Trade Commission, and reported by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, show the total for all such exports from January until October this year amounted to 29.2 million tonnes.

The worst performer in percentage terms was stainless steel scrap (-28.7%), followed by recovered paper and fibre (-16.3%), copper and copper alloy (-12.9%), and plastic (-8.2%). US ferrous scrap exports (excluding stainless and alloy steel scrap) edged up nearly 1% to 13.3 million tonnes because of Turkish demand, the only major scrap commodity to show a rise.

Shipments to Turkey through to October were up 15.5% to more than 3.5 million tonnes, according to the Census Bureau. Other reported market gains include Mexico (+16.1%), Bangladesh (+51.0%), Canada (+22.8%), Pakistan (+55.4%), and Thailand (+43.4%).

The trade data also gives little evidence that the US is benefitting from increased demand in China. Total scrap exports to China declined 12.2% during the first 10 months of 2020 to 4.79 million tonnes.

Among the individual sectors, recovered paper and fibre shipments were down 10.1% while aluminium scrap exports fell by nearly 52% this year, although ISRI points out that aluminium scrap exports to Malaysia rose more than 56% over the corresponding period (cautioning this could include misreported nonferrous scrap shipments earlier in the year).

The value of total US scrap exports to China fell 13% year-on-year to US$ 1.46 billion (EUR 1.19 billion).

US recovered paper and fibre exports during until the end of October were less than 12.2 million tonnes, down 16.3% from the 14.5 million tonnes shipped during the same period in 2019. Recovered paper exports to India reportedly plunged by nearly one million tonnes to 1.53 million tonnes (-40.1%), while those to China decreased 10% to 4.49 million tonnes.

Plastic scrap exports from the US fell 8.2% to just under 520 000 tonnes on the back of weaker demand from India (-80.1%), Hong Kong (-44.8%), Taiwan (-40.1%), Indonesia (-24.8%), and Turkey (-33.9%). Improved trade flows with Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Germany, Latvia, and Bangladesh helped to offset some of the reduced shipments.

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