NEW YORK Domestic buyers of shredded nonferrous sensor-sorted scrap, known as zurik, have been flooded with calls from exporters of the material as stepped-up regulations on solid waste shipments to China, known as Operation Green Fence, continue to restrict flow to Chinese consumers, sources told AMM.
Zurik, which is comprised mainly of stainless steel, insulated copper wire, aluminum, copper, lead, magnesium, nickel, tin and zinc, is largely regarded as a banned material under the guidelines set forth by Operation Green Fence (amm.com, June 12). In the United States there are only a handful of major consumers of zurik who are able to properly separate the material using heavy media separation and other proprietary technologies.
"The export market is almost non-existent, especially with the problems in China," one exporter said, adding that prices have declined over the past few months due to a surplus of material. "There is a scramble to figure out what to do with all this stuff," he said.
Because Zurik has been shipped almost entirely to China for the past decade, many exporters have been forced to search for other international destinations to ship material. Vietnam and Mexico have been accepting zurik shipments on a limited basis largely because of an ability to hire a work force that can hand-pick the material, a second exporter said, noting that without a dedicated labor market or heavy media separation technology, zurik is virtually useless to processors and stainless steel mills.
Conversely, some sellers said domestic consumers are the only buyers active in zurik the market. "When Green Fence went up, I went to India and when the tariffs went up in India I stopped shipping overseas all together," a third exporter said.
Others said that some recyclers are attempting to upgrade their shredders to produce material that could be sold to domestic stainless mills or shipped overseas as a high-grade zurik package. "I have heard that investments have been made at a couple of shredders around the country to make a product that is in the 90-percent metallic range," the second exporter said.
One domestic zurik buyer said his phone has been ringing off the hook since Green Fence was implemented in March.
"People think that zurik is worth a lot more than it really is," he said. "Since Green Fence, we have been getting a lot more calls and most times we cant accept it. What people dont realize is that even a heavy media separator wont separate the material properly. We have had to develop proprietary technology to perfect the separation process. The whole thing takes a lot of time and money."
A fourth exporter said the zurik market will likely be in flux until Chinese consumers are able to resume buying.