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Scrap recyclers in the fast lane

The Recycling International team was met by a chorus of ‘It’s good to be back!’ from exhibitors and visitors alike attending the long-awaited live ISRI Convention & Expo in Las Vegas in March. But it was certainly not all euphoria…

‘We are back and we are strong,’ said US Insitute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ chair Gary Champlin of Champlin Tire Recycling in his opening speech to the first in-person convention and exposition in three years.

Champlin has led the organisation through perhaps the most challenging era in its existence so far. Due to the pandemic, ISRI had to cancel two live conventions which, unsurprisingly, has had an effect on the trade body’s income: ‘Around 45% of ISRI’s revenue comes from our the conventions,’ Champlin noted.

Despite the effects of Covid and the war in Ukraine, the scrap trade body welcomed more than 5 000 delegates from 43 countries. Clearly, high scrap commodity prices help feed that optimism. There’s great demand, not only for metals but also for paper and plastics.

At the same time high prices cause headaches. ‘Prices went up too fast and at some point they will go down,’ warned US entrepreneur George Adams of SA Recycling during a panel discussion on the state of US scrap sector. 

The war in Ukraine may seem far away in Las Vegas, where the show must go on, but the conflict is increasingly affecting scrap businesses around the world including the USA. ‘Inflation, rising energy costs; they’re having a big impact on every industry, including ours,’ said Adams.

Ordering extra

Another thing is a shortage of tools. ‘Let’s face it, it’s a big challenge to get equipment,’ says Adams who leads one of the biggest ferrous metal recycling companies in the US (SA Recycling has 125 yards). The question is, how to deal with this shortage? Adams: ‘We’ve taken precautions. I buy extra to build inventory. For example, whereas we would normally order five new forklifts, we now order ten, just in case…I know all of you in the room here buy extra stuff because of this shortage. You want to be prepared when things get even worse.’

Many recycling machinery and technology providers at the ISRI Expo confirmed to Recycling International they faced major supply issues. All kinds of equipment cannot be sent out because of missing parts. ‘Electric motors or small electrical components – they either don’t arrive or face big delays,’ says Jim Thiessen of Kansas-based separation technology expert Bunting Magnetics. ‘We could be pushing our machines out of the door if we didn’t have these supply chain problems.’

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