The combination of bigger, more powerful shredders
and tougher specifications from steel mills has put new
pressure on scrap processors to produce a cleaner,
lower-residual shredded scrap.
Specifications from some flat-rolled mini-mills
have become even more demanding, several shredder operators
said. Melters are looking for shredded with lower residual
elements overall, but are demanding a copper content of less
than 0.18 percent, down from the 0.25-percent level once
"They are looking for less tramp elements in any
scrap today, and certainly shredded," said Rob Bakotich, vice
president of sales and marketing at Detroit-based Ferrous
Processing & Trading Co. (FPT), which operates several
shredders in that region.
Also, more mills are using shredded these days, he
said. That might not be the case in the current ferrous market,
where the price of shredded is in parity with top prime steel
scrap like No. 1 busheling. But a year ago, when prime
industrial scrap prices skyrocketed, many mills substituted
lower-cost shredded for No. 1 busheling and No. 1 bundles.
"Sales of shredded have gone up. That may not be
true in the market today, but prior to that, when there was a
substantial differential between prime scrap (like No. 1
busheling) and shredded, demand was strong," Bakotich said.
Even basic oxygen furnace (BOF) melt shops are
using shredded, while electric-arc furnace shops that have a
long history of using shredded are shifting their scrap mix and
increasing the amount of shredded in the charge.
"They are using more shredded and (shredder
operators) are trying to refine it further, picking it more
because the mills want guarantees that the tramp elements are
out," he said.
Many shredder operators have installed inspection
machines and other devices to provide proof that their shredded
meets mills' specifications. These machines don't remove the
residuals. That has to be done beforehand with better
preparation of the feedstock and separation equipment that
captures more of the nonferrous metals.
"The separation equipment and technology in the
market today is superior to what it was even seven to 10 years
ago," said Scott Gibble, northern Indiana divisional manager at
OmniSource Corp. in Fort Wayne, Ind.
That enables OmniSource to produce cleaner shredded
for steel mills and foundries, but it also helps do a better
job of separating non-metallics and reclaiming nonferrous
metals, he said. That was a big bonus to many shredder
operators last year, when prices for copper and other
nonferrous scrap soared.
The technology for analyzing shredded has been
available for a few years. With flat-rolled mills looking for
low-copper shredded, the technology can confirm copper content.
"That has forced people to do a better job of segregation in
front and a better job of picking the free copper out of (the
finished product)," Gibble said.
The combination of improved technology and better
practices have made operators smarter about separating the
materials that are fed into the shredder, he added.
FPT stresses that practice of cleaner feedstock to
its suppliers-auto wreckers and junkyard operators-by paying a
little more to those suppliers with a cleaner feedstock,
Bakotich said. It also helps protect the machinery from
"Unshreddables in a load are still probably the
largest danger to shredders today. If someone is putting
something that is not going to go through those grates-a hunk
of steel or a die block-you have to be vigilant," he said. That
means no batteries, no tires, no fluids and no mercury
switches, he said, noting that the removal of these items
should be the industry norm.
FPT also practices what it preaches about cleaner
feedstock at its own auto junkyards, Bakotich said. That's not
something new to the company, he said, adding that the big
Motor City scrap processor has been doing that for years.
Most shredder operators have an inspection process
upfront to make sure they aren't putting in materials that are
environmental hazards, safety hazards and heavy scrap.
Michael Richmond, an OmniSource operations manager,
said a key factor is training employees that are out in front
of the machines what to look for. "Educating your people out
front is very important," he said.
OmniSource has inspectors on the ground to identify
both problem materials and those that are appropriate to put
into the machine, Gibble said. Since shredders are larger and
more powerful than in the past, operators are able to feed
larger items into the shredder that used to be sheared or
Another step to producing cleaner shredded is
operating with more material in the shredder box, Gibble said.
"There is a theory out there-and we subscribe to it-called
full-box shredding. If you can keep the mill box full of
materials when you are shredding, you end up with an abrasive
action in the machine. It works against itself as well as
working against the hard surface in the machine," thus
producing smaller pieces and making it easier to separate the