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China’s non-ferrous scrap output grows

Latest figures for the global production of major recycled non-ferrous metals indicate China totalled 17.6 million tonnes in 2023.

According to Ma Honchang, a regional expert for the Bureau of International Recycling, preliminary estimates suggest this is a year-on-year increase of 6.34%.

BIR’s latest non-ferrous Mirror notes the overall total includes 3.85 million tonnes of recycled copper (up 2.67% compared to 2022), 9.5 million tonnes of recycled aluminium (+9.83%), 2.95 million tonnes of recycled lead (+3.51%) and 1.3 million tonnes of recycled zinc (unchanged).

‘Domestic recycling of non-ferrous scrap by metal quantity saw a steady increase to 14.5 million tonnes,’ says Ma. ‘Imports of recycled copper and brass raw materials climbed to 1.9 million tonnes while incoming volumes of recycled casting aluminium alloy raw materials increased to 1.7 million tonnes.’

Also in the Mirror, non-ferrous board member Shen Dong, Omnisource Corporation (US), reports that China removed a 30% export tariff rate on aluminium of 99.995% purity on 1 January. However, it has added refined copper cathodes with a Cu content greater than 99.9935% to those items carrying a 30% export duty.

According to latest data, Chinese vehicle manufacturer BYD set a record of over three million car sales in 2023, including 1.57 million battery electric vehicles and 1.44 million hybrids, for a 62% increase over 2022.

India healthy

The Indian perspective, contributed by guest contributor Anirudha Agrawal, Manaksia Aluminium, was that copper scrap availability was healthy in India in the final quarter of 2023. Substantial volumes were exported, he reported, and the good availability extended into the first quarter of 2024. However, tightness in supply is foreseen for the April-June quarter.

‘As for aluminium, the crisis in the Red Sea is having a ripple effect on freight rates, with delayed arrivals of imports adding to the woes of India’s recyclers,’ Agrawal writes. ‘Also affected by the crisis is the availability of scrap, which has become more expensive at a time when refined metal prices have headed lower. Therefore, it has become more commercially lucrative to raise the share of primary metal in the raw material mix.’

Slow US trade

In the US, the year ended slowly for most consumer operations as they lowered inventories to very low levels. Board member Rick Dobkin, (Shapiro Metals) notes that demand from billet producers is poor, with expectations that conditions may not improve until the second half of this year.

‘We are anticipating the entry of several new greenfield mills into the scrap chase towards the middle of the year, which should drive spreads tighter,’ Dobkin reports. ‘Secondary scrap prices seem high relative to stagnant ingot pricing at present.’

And he adds: ‘Melting operations may be looking to replace very costly shredded scrap with other items, bringing shortages and higher prices for the likes of turnings and briquettes.’

The overview from non-ferrous division president Paul Coyte, Hayes Metal, New Zealand, concludes: ‘With shipping delays and surcharges, trade barriers and increased regulatory pressures, the early signs are that we are shaping up for an interesting 2024.’

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