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ISRI 2012 expo, study show importance of scrap

Keywords: Tags  ISRI Annual Convention, John Sacco, Chuck Carr, Atlas Metal & Iron Corp.,

More than 5,000 attendees gathered at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ annual convention and exposition in Las Vegas in April to hear and learn about issues covering regulation, safety, the environment, the general economy and more.

The theme of the convention, “Be More,” was chosen because it summed up the approach ISRI and its members take toward “information, efficiency and profitability,” said Chuck Carr, vice president of member services.

The exhibit hall at the convention featured more than 300 exhibitors showcasing their products and services. Among the companies represented in the exhibit hall were equipment suppliers, scrap processors, mills and refineries, brokerage firms, and environmental and safety professionals. Beyond the hall, attendees had the opportunity to hear presentations from ISRI officials and a number of guest speakers. 

In a warning issued during the opening session of the convention, outgoing ISRI chairman John Sacco said the scrap recycling industry “will be legislated out of business” if it doesn’t become more proactive in tackling metal theft. He emphasized the industry’s need to be at the forefront of compliance issues such as metal theft laws. 

“It’s time to stop thieves at our door and encourage enforcement against those unwilling to do so,” he said. “If we don’t get on the right side of this issue, we will be legislated out of business.”

The industry also needs to be more proactive in ensuring compliance with mounting Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Sacco said. “The regulations won’t go away, the press won’t get friendlier and the cost of compliance won’t go down.”

ISRI’s membership base also needs to get more involved in the organization’s efforts to address legislative changes, Sacco said, noting that only 120 member companies contributed to ISRI’s response to the EPA’s proposed changes to the definition of solid waste last year (AMM, Oct. 31). “We must never be silenced by our own distractions,” he said.

Sacco, who finished his two-year term as ISRI chairman at the convention, was succeeded in the leadership role by Jerry Simms, executive vice president of Denver-based Atlas Metal & Iron Corp.

The four-day convention included a number of workshops, educational programs, commodity spotlight sessions, an overall “Spotlight on the Economy” and a general session address from former President George W. Bush.

The convention came on the heels of a new ISRI study highlighting the significant economic and environmental impact of the U.S. scrap recycling industry. The study, commissioned by ISRI and undertaken by John Dunham & Associates Inc., looked at different kinds of economic activity—jobs and exports—and both direct and indirect economic impacts at the national, state and congressional district levels.

Steel is the most recycled material both in the United States and worldwide, the study said. In the United States alone, 74 million tonnes of ferrous scrap were processed by the scrap recycling industry last year, more than 55 percent of the volume of all domestically processed material. Obsolete ferrous scrap is recovered from automobiles, steel structures, household appliances, railroad tracks, ships, farm equipment and other sources. In addition, prompt scrap, which is generated from industrial and manufacturing sources, accounts for approximately half of the ferrous scrap supply.

Both obsolete and prompt scrap are processed by the scrap recycling industry into commodity-grade material that is used to produce more than 60 percent of total raw steel produced in the United States, predominantly at electric-arc furnaces (EFs). In addition, the United States exports ferrous scrap to some 90 countries worldwide. “Domestic and foreign steel mills, foundries and other industrial consumers rely on ferrous scrap as a vital, environmentally friendly and cost-efficient raw material for the production of new steel and cast iron products,” the study said. “Depending on the life cycle of those finished products, the ferrous scrap once again becomes available for recycling in the months and years ahead.”

Other highlights from the ISRI study included:

• The U.S. scrap industry recycled more than 54 million tonnes of ferrous metal in 2010.

• The United States is the largest exporter of ferrous scrap in the world. More than 19 million tonnes of ferrous scrap valued at more than $8 billion were exported to approximately 90 countries in 2010, when the top exports were shredded steel (7,438,729 tonnes), No. 1 heavy melt (5,646,271 tonne), No. 2 heavy melt (1,024,206 tonnes), stainless scrap (937,158 tonnes) and alloyed non-stainless steel scrap (916,105 tonnes).

• On average, the United States processes enough ferrous scrap to build 25 Eiffel Towers every day of the year.

• Steel produced by predominantly scrap-fed EFs accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total raw steel produced in the United States in 2010—nearly 55 million tonnes.

• Recycling steel requires 60 percent less energy than producing steel from iron ore, and carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 58 percent.

• Recycling one car saves more than 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. The United States recycled nearly 14 million vehicles in 2009, supplying an estimated 14 million tons of shredded scrap.

• The 2009 recycling rates for cars, appliances, steel cans, structural steel and reinforcement steel were 70 percent or higher.

The overall economic analysis of all recycling—not just metals—shows that the U.S. scrap recycling industry is a major economic engine powerful enough to create 459,131 jobs and generate $10.3 billion annually in tax revenue for governments across the country, the study said, “all while making the old new again and helping to protect the Earth’s air, water and land for future generations.”

“This study illustrates very clearly that the U.S. scrap recycling industry is playing an important role in America’s economic recovery,” ISRI president Robin Wiener said. “Despite tough times, our industry is directly and indirectly putting more than 450,000 people to work while generating revenue for federal, state and local governments. All this adds up to recognition that the scrap recycling industry must be allowed to grow so it can continue to boost our economy, put people to work, protect our environment and help save energy. When people think of recycling, they think of the bin at the curb, when in fact our industry is a multibillion-dollar ‘Made in America’ manufacturing success story.”

The U.S. scrap recycling industry is particularly important because its operations are so widespread, the study concluded. The total economic activity generated by scrap recycling in the United States exceeds $90.6 billion annually, making the industry similar in size to the nation’s forestry and fishing industries combined. Notably, the U.S. scrap recycling industry adds as much to the nation’s economy as the coal mining industry and nearly as much as all of the nation’s professional sports teams.

Washington-based ISRI represents about 1,600 private, for-profit companies operating more than 7,000 facilities in the United States and 30 other countries. Members include processors, brokers and industrial consumers of scrap commodities, including ferrous and nonferrous metals, electronics, paper, rubber, plastics, glass and textiles. ISRI’s associate members include both equipment and service providers for the scrap recycling industry.  

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