In the next few years, US recyclers will face changes in workforce development, shifts in international trade, and challenges to recycling’s reputation, according to Tamara Lundgren, ceo of Schnitzer Steel Industries.
Bank of America analysts warn of a ‘steel-mageddon’, a 20 to 25% increase is steelmaking capacity that, depending on market conditions, could cause price compression and oversupply, Lundgren said. ‘Steel mills are our customers so, if they face this, it could be hard for us to escape unscathed,’ she told ISRI convention delegates.
Lundgren said the steel industry has benefitted from the US’ recent 232 tariffs that were intended to curb illegal product dumping. She also called for better long-term solutions that avoid retaliatory tariffs and allow countries to create dynamic trade agreements.
In the next six years, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. According to Lundgren, recyclers must prioritise the creation of workplaces that provide not only good pay and benefits and a safe work environment but also a culture that values candidates from diverse backgrounds.
Recyclers also face hiring challenges, she said, because of increased competition for jobs. ‘It’s demanding work, there’s a tight labour market, and unemployment is low, so attracting talent is hard,’ she said.
Combat bad image
Lundren believes recyclers also have a duty to highlight the benefits of recycling. ‘Too often, we are seen by regulators or our own neighbours as part of the problem or damaging to the environment,’ she said. To combat that image, Schnitzer’s ceo suggested reaching out to educate critics about how the industry works and to highlight scrap’s inherent green impact. ‘We need to build personal relationships so we can work as allies, not adversaries,’ she said.
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