Despite the short-term challenges with the export market, exporting recyclables has provided tremendous benefits for many scrap metal recyclers. The downside of the burgeoning export market has been the increase in the theft of material from many containers.
During the 2015 ISRI National Convention, held April 21-25 in Vancouver, British Columbia, a trio of panelists discussed the issue of scrap metal theft on both the offshore and domestic market, as well as steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of a company’s cargo falling victim to theft.
The issue of theft from containers at overseas ports started to gain widespread interest several years ago when copper scrap prices were soaring to record highs. Even with the more recent slide in prices, the theft issue at overseas locations continues to plague the industry. The panelists at the session, “International Trade 101: How to Protect the Value of Your Scrap Exports,” discussed where the problem spots are and how exporters can combat the issue.
Randy Goodman, a long-time scrap metal recycler, focused much of his discussion on a recent survey conducted for ISRI that addressed container thefts at overseas ports. The survey, he said, will go a long way toward supporting the scrap metal industry when going to the Chinese government for assistance in resolving the problem.
Goodman said that the biggest problem spots for container theft are in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, which is used to transport containers from Hong Kong to inland locations in South China. Shanghai also has its share of container theft, but it is not nearly as prevalent as in Hong Kong, said Goodman.
The Hong Kong region accounted for about 10 percent of all copper scrap exports from the United States to China in 2014, at a value of around $290 million. Goodman said the average cost of the thefts in that region are around $10 million per year, with “upwards of 3-5 percent of container copper scrap at a risk of cargo theft.”
David Cuckney, manager of the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce, London, said his organization also has been tracking the issue of container theft and concurs with Goodman that China continues to be the “hot spot” when it comes to container theft. He added that South America and Africa also are areas to watch.
Cuckney said it appears copper scrap theft is tied to an organized crime element. “We strongly believe vessel agents, port agents, carrier agents are being bribed.” He said thieves know what containers contain the copper scrap, which means it is an “inside job.”
Cuckney also discussed the many ways in which thieves can pry open a sealed container with only a few simple tools.
Goodman said problems often occur once the cargo is offloaded and transshipped to another vessel up the Pearl River Delta. “That is where the thefts take place,” he stated.
“Scrap theft in China is growing and is an industry wide problem. We are trying to get the steamship lines to recognize it. The volume and financial impact of suspected cargo theft is growing,” Goodman added.
As for what shippers can do, both Goodman and Cuckney said a key is for all parties to work together to address the issue. Goodman said ISRI is working on putting together recommendations to address the issue. For companies looking to grow their export business, Goodman said companies must consider the risk before shipping to some port areas, including Hong Kong.
Other steps Goodman laid out include the following:
- Take plenty of photos of the loaded container.
- When possible, take the most direct route.
- Consult with the International Maritime Bureau.
- Visit the customer. Meeting the customer face to face will help in dealing with the possibility of theft.
- In the transportation sectors, carriers and ports should increase security, which would include monitoring employees at different ports.
- Allocate the resources to prosecute criminals.
Keith Lewis, vice president of operations for CargoNet, a company that says it is dedicated to preventing cargo theft and increasing recovery rates through secure and controlled information, highlighted the theft issue that is affecting domestic shippers.
Lewis said one of the first steps a scrap metal recycler should take is “get the police on your speed dial. Get to know the police. Get tight with law enforcement. If you are dialing 911 after a theft you are in trouble.”
Another point he addressed was overcoming the idea that thieves were unsophisticated amateurs. What is of significant concern, Lewis said, is the level of sophistication for many thieves. “They use GPS to track shipments. They are pretty savvy with how to steal the material,” he remarked.
Additionally, some thieves are using the Internet to run scams. These “cyber crimes” are becoming a bigger issue. These scams can include setting up phony trucking firms, getting payments up front and then never showing up for the delivery.
To combat this, Lewis says shippers and brokers should more closely scrutinize the truckers who are serving them. A shipper doesn’t necessarily have to take a trucker’s fingerprint, Lewis said, but “make sure they are legit.”
Also, Lewis said truck stops are a magnet for problems, especially when truckers are parking loads overnight or over a weekend. “Nothing good happens at a truck stop after midnight,” he stated.
The 2015 ISRI Convention & Exposition was at the Vancouver Convention Centre April 21-25.
The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders funds the county’s Regional Recycling Program, which serves approximately 162,000 households from 40 municipalities.
“Studies show that single stream brings with it an increase of 10 percent or more in recycling,” said Joseph Bender, OTC executive director. “At a rate of 35 tons per hour, the new single-stream system is capable of processing 60,000 tons per year, meeting the needs of county recyclers for the next 15 to 20 years.”
To sort incoming recyclables, the Robert C. Shinn Jr. Recycling Center uses state-of-the-art technology. The system includes a drum feeder, multiple screens with proprietary disc technology, a glass tommel and glass cleanup system, multiple magnets, two MSS Aladdin™ optical sorters and two two-ram balers.
“The implementation of a single-stream recycling process in Burlington County shows our strong commitment to protecting the environment using the most current technology available,” said Bruce Garganio, deputy director of Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders. “We are actively working to find more sustainable practices and to facilitating environmentally friendly choices for our nearly 420,000 residents.”
Since 1982, the OTC has operated Burlington County’s Regional Recycling Program. The program is funded through tipping fees with no additional costs to the towns served. In 2014 alone, it saved county municipalities $3.38 million in avoided landfill disposal costs, according to a press release from The CP Group.
“It’s a win-win for everyone who lives and works in Burlington County,” said Joseph Howarth, a former Burlington County freeholder. “The more we recycle, the less we need to landfill. Those cost-savings are effectively tax savings since they improve the bottom line of municipal budgets.”
The OTC of Burlington County is a private nonprofit that offers diversified vocational rehabilitation and job placement programs for individuals with disabilities. Through the recycling program, OTC employs 55 individuals with disabilities.
“At OTC, our mission is to help individuals with disabilities reach their higher potential,” said Bender. “Our programs provide disabled adults with the skills and training needed to succeed in the work environment vocationally, socially and personally.”
Construction of the single-stream recycling system began Feb. 17, 2014, and was completed Jan. 23, 2015. The lead contractor on the project was Dandrea Construction Inc., based in Berlin, New Jersey.
“As a resident of Burlington County, I had a personal interest in seeing the successful completion of the single stream recycling facility,” said John A. Dandrea, president of Dandrea Construction. “The construction team assigned to this project was able to minimize the downtime of the existing plant. They overcame several unforeseen conditions and were able to complete the project ahead of schedule. I am very proud to have played a part in the transformation of the recycling facility.”
“The upgrade of the dual-stream system to a new state-of-the art 35-tons-per-hour residential single stream system was a smooth conversion,” said Patrick Nicol, CP Group sales engineer. “While adhering to the OTC’s mission to train and employ individuals with disabilities, the new sorting system utilizes the latest screening and automated sorting technologies and configuration offering maximum flexibility for todays and tomorrows material stream compositions. We are proud to be part of such a successful project.”
The CP Group engineers and manufactures all MRF components, including conveyors, disc screens, air separation machines, trommels, optical sorters, magnets and intelligent motor control and data acquisition systems. The CP Group comprises CP Manufacturing, Krause Manufacturing, MSS, and Advanced MRF.
The Plasticity Forum, scheduled for June 8-9 in Cascais, Portugal, will feature several speakers from the corporate world and the business and trade association community.
Among the speakers who have been announced as added to the roster at the event are:
- Jeff Wooster, global sustainability leader of Dow Chemical Company, who has developed and implemented new technology for application areas including stretch film, shipping sacks and fresh-cut produce packaging. Wooster is a frequently invited guest speaker on behalf of Dow on the subjects of sustainability and sustainable packaging.
- Willem De Vos, CEO of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), who leads an organization that describes itself as a “knowledge and networking organization active in the plastics industry worldwide.” SPE says it is active in 30 countries and has about 30 divisions and 70 regional sections with members in 84 countries around the world.
- Steve Russell, vice president of the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), who will speak on the topic of “Collaborations to develop systems that harness the value of waste.” The ACC says its Plastics Division is “driving efforts to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover plastics, and to provide sustainable solutions to prevent litter, increase recycling and address marine debris.”
- Dr. Mike Biddle, founder and a current director of MBA Polymers Inc., who will speak on the topic of “Untangling Systems for Streamlined Material Flow.” Biddle started MBA Polymers nearly 20 years ago from his garage and helped build the company into one a multi-national firm that recovers plastics from end-of-life durable goods, including computers, electronics, business equipment, appliances and automobiles.
- Andrew Morlet, chief executive of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose presentation is titled “How do we Collectively Scale for the Circular Economy?” Morlet leads the business programs of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which says it “promotes economic development that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which enables the shift to renewable energy.”
More information on the Plasticity Forum, including updates on additional speakers, can be found at http://www.plasticityforum.com/agenda/index.php.