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Feb 08, 2014 | 01:00 AM

Is it time to shred the shredders?

Tags  scrap shredders, auto shredders, ferrous scrap

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NEW YORK -- Oklahoma resident Eileen Rowley claims that windows have been cracked and house foundations damaged due to “sonic booms” permeating her neighborhood. And she’s not alone.

Earlier this month, Rowley and several other residents of her Tulsa neighborhood announced plans to pursue a class-action lawsuit against a major recycler, alleging that the improper use of a key piece of equipment has made their homes and businesses unstable.

The alleged culprit? An auto shredder operated by a nearby scrapyard, which has denied claims that the unit has caused any structural damage to surrounding buildings.

Rowley’s might be one of the more remarkable stories to come out of the shredder branch of the domestic ferrous and nonferrous scrap sector in recent months, but it is far from the only drama being played out daily in a business that has seen its ups and downs against a backdrop ripe with challenges.

Today’s shredder landscape is marked by issues ranging from thin and diminishing margins to undisciplined buying practices, lower metal yields, mounting shredding capacity, and a curtailed appetite for shred among the nation’s long-product mini-mills resulting from the persistent funk in construction.

Recent upticks in building activity, predictions of a steady shift in preference by electric-furnace melters toward shred as a charge material and the ever-changing role of scrap exports in the supply/demand equation for shredded material offer hope for better days ahead.

In the interim, however, operators are slicing and dicing in response to what many see as a profit-sapping overhang of shredder capacity. Shredders have been idled by a number of recyclers, including Commercial Metals Co., Irving, Texas; David J. Joseph Co., Cincinnati; Gerdau Long Steel North America, Tampa, Fla.; OmniSource Corp., Fort Wayne, Ind.; PSC Metals Inc., Mayfield Heights, Ohio; and Sims Metal Management Ltd., New York. And more shutdowns are expected throughout the rest of 2014.

For a closer look at the changing dynamics and interplay of U.S. shredding capacity, scrap exports, electric-arc furnace-based steel production and the domestic price of shredded scrap, AMM has prepared the accompanying infographic.

Download the infographic at no cost, and if you like it, please feel free to share it.

Author

Jo Isenberg

Jo Isenberg is executive editor of AMM. She has been covering the steel industry for over 30 years and has served as editor of AMM for the last 11 years – the most successful decade in the publication’s long history.

  • If not properly engineered, managed, or installed, there is the possibility of creating "headaches" in the surrounding areas of a shredder. They do cause explosions, electrical issues, and other noises audible for blocks around the site. However, there have been tremendous advances in both technology and laws that are helping take all of those issues into consideration. There have been sound barriers placed for noise pollution, extended cleaning processes for air pollutants, and electrical parameters set in the drives to reduce "flicker" placed on the lines for surround grid users. Explosions are a regular basis for a shredder yard. As many of them as there are, you may only hear the ones that are the biggest. Most of the explosions happen with a material that has a large burn-off rate (ex. propane burns 99.9%). If there is a fire following an explosion, shredders come with water pumps built in along the belts surround the box. This allows the operator to stop the spread from the source. Operators also spray down the belts and ASR to cool them down and prevent any occurrences. As bad as they may be, the installation of a shredder helps the economic growth of that surrounding city. It can create a minimum of 15 new job openings. There can also be a new, easier recycling schedule set up in the city. This allows people to get money back for their scrap and help keep the metal recycling industry moving. The more scrap brought in keeps those recently employed at the yard busy, creating job security. While shredders naturally get a "black eye" from the common public, they are not as bad as they seem at all. They help boost the surrounding areas, are becoming more & more eco-friendly as the months pass, and help keep our streets, parks, and common areas clean of ferrous & non-ferrous rubbish.
    Todd Jul 29, 2014
  • The accompanying infographic incorrectly represent Wisconsin as having no shredders when in fact there are at least half a dozen shredders in operation in WI.
    Bob Apr 02, 2014
  • The pendulum is swinging the other way in the shredder world and allowing for small/medium sized companies to purchase small/medium sized shredders that will render serious returns on captive flows. The mega shredders are dinosaurs....
    Justin Mar 11, 2014
  • This has been an ongoing problem with CMC in Tulsa. The machine has been nothing but a headache for local residents and business owners. Power surges, explosions, and destroyed roads and lack of concern from local management...
    chase Feb 11, 2014

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