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Globe Trotting

Features - International Recycling News, Municipal Recycling, Electronics, International Recycling News, Conferences & Events, Plastics, Paper

Global trading patterns, national economic trends and regional and local best practices were all topics of conversation at recycling industry events that took place this spring.

International factors were naturally top of mind at the Spring Convention of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), which took place in late May.

National and regional trends were added to the agenda at both WasteExpo, which took place in mid-May in Dallas, and at the annual conference of the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), which took place in San Diego in mid-May.

BIR SPRING CONVENTION. Recyclers and traders of secondary commodities from throughout the world assembled in Berlin for the Bureau of International Recycling’s Spring Convention.

Committees in several different recycling industry segments met during the three-day event, discussing end markets and fundamentals affecting the consumption, trading and pricing of scrap materials.

A common theme in many sessions was the growing prominence of the Chinese market, as well as the impact of a looming July 1, 2004, deadline to register for permission to export scrap metals to China.

Speakers at several sessions warned fellow attendees to be vigilant about securing a permit from the Chinese government or face exclusion from the market. Speakers from both BIR and ISRI noted that their groups are seeking to push back the July 1 deadline, perhaps to Oct. 1.

The BIR’s Stainless Steel & Special Alloys Committee shared perspectives on issues that were common to many commodities.

Committee Chair Sandro Giuliani of Giuliani Metalli-Cronimet Group in Italy said higher scrap availability likely won’t continue for the rest of the year in part because stocks have been liquidated.

While many scrap dealers were talking in terms of a shortage of scrap, figures collected from European generators indicated that availability had improved by as much as 15 percent in 2003 and by a further 15 perent in the first quarter of 2004, said Giuliani.

World production of stainless steel grew by 7 percent to 22 million metric tons in 2003, and European mills remained bullish about prospects for 2004 despite uncertainty surrounding the effects of EU expansion and steps taken by Chinese authorities to curb their overheating economy, Giuliani reported.

In his report on the U.S. market, past chair Barry Hunter of Hunter BenMet Associates, New York, predicted stainless scrap would become harder to find in the third quarter of 2004.

Hunter noted the "domino effect" created by the economic measures recently adopted by China, leading to a substantial fall in scrap purchasing prices. Strong melt schedules were still reported from the U.S., with North American Stainless, a leading scrap buyer, continuing to melt near capacity.

Stuart Freilich of Universal Metal Corp., Worcester, Mass., reported that orders in the aerospace market had been higher than anticipated and sales were expected to grow by as much as $ 10 billion during 2004. Analysts were forecasting "many good years of business ahead," he added.

Ildar Neverov of Teplovtorresource in Russia said domestic mills had been unable to purchase sufficient quantities of scrap because of the higher prices available on the export market and non-payment by suppliers.

Guest speaker Jan Bender of ThyssenKrupp Nirosta GmbH in Germany, said China was expected to double its stainless steel cold rolling capacity by 2007, while Central/Eastern Europe harbors "terrific growth potential" for the consumption of cold rolled flat products.

He went on to warn that stainless steel manufacturers were unable to pass on all of their raw material cost increases and that "clients are beginning to look around for alternative materials."

Bender acknowledged a "boom" in 200 Series stainless steel production in both India and China, but suspected these materials would not offer "real competition" for 300 Series products in the longer term given their comparative corrosion resistance characteristics.

WASTE EXPO. The recent WasteExpo show in Dallas offered sessions addressing several topics of interest to the waste and recycling industries.

Ben Harvey of E.L. Harvey & Sons, Westborough, Mass., led one of two panel discussions on recycling markets that touched on several recycled commodities, including paper, plastics, tires, carpet and electronics.

Bill Moore, principal of Moore & Associates, Atlanta, contrasted the significant difference between the growth in the Chinese paper market and that of North America. While capacity in the U.S. and Canada has remained relatively flat throughout the past several years, capacity has been growing at a significant rate in China. While the rate of American shutdowns appears to be abating, new capacity in China has far exceeded expectations.

Despite the concern expressed by many that China will continue to play a significant role in the market, new capacity continues to come online, putting even greater pressure on domestic buyers.

Moore noted that the difference in paper capacity between North America and Asia is significant. He said that while the U.S. paper industry has lost about 6.5 million tons of capacity between 2002 and 2003, Asian paper making capacity is expected to grow by a rate of around 3.7 percent per year, with dramatic growth in China’s papermaking capacity.

While many people note that China has become a major buyer of old corrugated containers (OCC), Moore noted that twice as much mixed paper moves from the U.S. to China.

Meanwhile, exports of recovered fiber to China reflect this swing, with paper stock exports to China having doubled in the last several years. This surge has moved China into the number one position as an end market for recovered fiber from the U.S.

While Moore contrasted the dynamics of China and the U.S., Larry Sisco with Abitibi-Consolidated, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, one of the largest paper companies in the world, noted that one trend causing greater concern for newsprint mills has been the demand for higher quality old newspaper grades while newsprint demand is growing. Sisco questioned how domestic collection levels will be able to meet these growing demands.

He noted that Abitibi-Consolidated continues to see an upbeat market for recovered fiber, with strong demand coming from China.

Michael Peltz, with the Recycle America Alliance division of Waste Management Inc., Houston, also agreed that China will continue to play a key role in the growth in the paper recycling industry. Peltz noted that exports of recovered fiber to China will continue to increase throughout the next five years.

Frank Hurd, with the Carpet & Rug Institute, noted that while starting from a small base, carpet recycling programs have been growing at a fairly good clip. Hurd was also quick to note that demand has far to go before carpet recycling can be viewed as a success story. While end markets are available, the difficulty in developing additional markets proves a challenge.

Bob Davis with Greenman Technologies, Lynnfield, Mass., touched on the growth areas for tire recyclers. While he acknowledged there are some swings in markets, the overall attitude of the tire recycling industry continues to be upbeat.

Two representatives from the electronics industry discussed the changing dynamics in that recycling segment. David Thompson with the Japanese-based electronics conglomerate Panasonic, covered many of the steps that the company has taken to ensure that its products are more environmentally friendly, from design-for-recycling strategies to reducing the energy used to make the electronics.

In his presentation, Steve Skurnac of Noranda Recycling, San Jose, Calif., discussed ways in which his company has worked to boost the overall recycling of electronics equipment with its recycling facilities in North America.

In addition to the sessions, Waste Expo offered an expansive exhibit hall, which was the focal point for thousands of attendees from throughout the world.

NAID CONFERENCE. Record attendance, a bustling exhibit tent, informative sessions and pleasant southern California weather combined to make the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) Annual Conference a memorable event for confidential shredding professionals.

Among the sessions at the NAID event was a look at best practices of successful secure destruction companies. A survey that more than 200 NAID member companies filled out has yielded several valuable findings, Robert Johnson, executive director of the Phoenix-based trade association, said.

While tallying and studying the survey’s results, Johnson reached several conclusions regarding how successful companies operate. He combined those findings with what he described as some "gut feelings" based on observing successful NAID members throughout the past decade to present a session entitled "Mining for Gold: The NAID Survey Data and the Best Practices in the Shredding Business."

Among Johnson’s key best practices findings are that:

Companies with a dedicated sales force fare better than those without one

Successful companies treat selling as a process, not as a one-time event

Avoiding complacency is important Companies that spend at least $1,000 in telephone directory advertising achieve higher growth rates

Companies with less than $150,000 in start-up capital are often among the fastest-growing NAID-certified companies are enjoying faster growth than non-certified companies

The fastest-growing companies offer both plant-based and mobile shredding services

Of the 20 fastest growing survey respondents, eight were dedicated solely to shredding, while 12 offered additional services such as records storage or recycling.

Johnson cited the sales-focused nature of successful companies as a key best practices suggestion. He said at successful shredding companies, "everything revolves around the mission of sales," and that such companies also successfully deploy contact management software that lets them stay in touch with prospects in an organized fashion.

He also touted the value of truck signage and other methods to establish a strong brand identity. "It’s an under-utilized opportunity," he remarked.

The San Diego event also featured the installation of new NAID officers and sessions covering legislation and regulations that could create additional business opportunities for secure shredding firms.

The authors are the editor and Internet editor of Recycling Today. Comments or questions can be sent to btaylor@gie.net.

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