“Scrap exports play a vital role for the recycling industry specifically, and also generally for the U.S. economy,” says BobGarino, vice president at Export Tax Advisors, a firm that helps U.S. firms export scrap.
The export boom is part of a broader growth spurt.
The U.S. scrap recycling industry has “clearly recovered from the depths of 2008 and 2009,” says Garino, a recycling vet with decades in the sector.
Industry revenue rose to $77 billion in 2010, up 43 percent from $54 billion in 2009.
Trash To Cash
Canaccord Genuity’s cleantech analyst Eric Prouty says several critical global trends —economic growth overseas, high commodities demand, higher energy costs and better recovery technologies — are “creating what we call a ‘perfect storm’ scenario for the recycling industry.”
The top three markets are big developing markets China and South Korea as well as Canada, the U.S.’ principal trading partner. Together, these three countries consumer nearly half of exported U.S. scrap.
With a growing recycling infrastructure diverting more U.S. waste from landfills, as well as systems R&D investments from integrated waste handling firms like Waste Management, the U.S. is now recognized as the world leader in scrap.
It’s not just the amount of waste being generated in the world’s largest economy, he says; it’s that the best technology is used to recover various waste streams, making the U.S. scrap more “pure” than other countries.
“For scrap, the favored supply market for all buyers is the U.S. since it can supply the quantity and quality needed,” he says.
One of the beneficiaries from booming recycled commodity prices is cash-strapped municipal governments.
Ecomaine, the waste disposal agency for 21 communities in southern Maine, bought out the lease on its $1.5 million single-sort recycling systems eight years early, thanks to increased volumes of scrap selling for better prices.