Top of the Heap: Largest North American Ferrous Processors

Features - Ferrous

The largest ferrous scrap processors in North America handled in excess of 55 million tons of material in 2011.

March 12, 2012
Recycling Today Staff
Auto Shredding

North America’s largest ferrous scrap processors handled a tremendous volume of that material in 2011, processing more than 55 million gross tons. This figure shows modest growth of roughly 5 percent compared with the nearly 53 million tons of ferrous scrap processed by the companies on our 2009 list of the largest ferrous scrap processors in North America. (Recycling Today published this list in our April 2009 edition.)

Recycling Today bases its rankings on the amount of ferrous scrap physically handled by a company’s facilities. This includes ferrous scrap accepted across all of the facilities a company operates, whether it is processed further or shipped loose. This figure, however, excludes scrap that is never physically present at a corporate facility but that is brokered by traders or brokers who are employed by the company.

In comparing our current ferrous processors list with our previous list, readers will see that many of the same companies are represented, with a couple of exceptions.

First Timers
Ranking for the first time in 2012 is Upstate Shredding, Owego, N.Y., and Liberty Iron & Metal, Phoenix. These newcomers processed in excess of 1.5 million tons in 2011 and currently operate six auto shredders between them. Upstate is in the process of installing its second shredder at the company’s Rochester, N.Y., yard, which it acquired from Genesee Scrap in mid-2011.

“My father (Ben Weitsman) taught me it’s better to expand in a downtime,” Adam Weitsman, president and CEO of Upstate Shredding told Recycling Today Editorial Director Brian Taylor for the April 2010 cover story, “Comeback Kid.” He added, “The cost of land and equipment is cheaper, your lead time to install equipment can be shorter, and the suppliers can give you more attention.”

To see the full table of the 20 Largest North American ferrous scrap processors, click image above.

After overseeing Upstate through the boom years from 2003 to mid-2008, Weitsman put that philosophy into action during the market downturn.

In addition to Genesee Scrap, Upstate Shredding has acquired a number of companies in its operating region in recent years, including Liberty Scrap Metal, Liberty, N.Y.; Matlow & Co., Syracuse, N.Y.; and Weinstein Scrap Metal Corp., Jamestown, N.Y. The company also purchased land for a new feeder yard in Scranton, Pa., in 2011.

Liberty Iron & Metal Holdings LLC operates 11 scrap yards. The company also ranked on Recycling Today’s 2010 list of the largest nonferrous scrap processors in North America as the 17th largest processor of aluminum, the 18th largest processor of red metals and the 13th largest processor of zorba.

Most recently, Liberty Iron & Metal announced a joint venture with Scholz AG, Southwest Metal Industries and We Buy Scrap LLC to consolidate each of the respective companies’ Phoenix-area operations into a new company called Liberty Southwest Holdings LLC. The joint venture includes five facilities in the Phoenix area.

Liberty Iron & Metal entered into a joint venture with Germany-based Scholz AG in 2007 to expand its operations in North America. With the Arizona deal, Liberty and Scholz have completed three joint ventures in North America, with other operations located in Ohio and Chihuahua, Mexico.

These two newcomers to the largest ferrous scrap processors in North America join an overwhelming number of stalwarts who have made the list each time we’ve published it.

Did We Miss You?

While Recycling Today editors attempt to be thorough in compiling lists such as the 20 largest ferrous scrap processors in North America, we may have inadvertently overlooked (much to our and their regret) some companies, while other companies prefer to be overlooked.

Our hope is that owners, managers and employees of the companies that are on the list consider it an honor. It takes hard work by a lot of people to procure, process and ship ferrous scrap for steel mills and foundries to consume. We hope that our recognition of those companies will be viewed as a way to honor leadership in this industry.

Thank you to those companies who submitted figures but who remained just outside of the list of the 20 largest ferrous scrap processors. In many other cases, companies did not submit a tonnage figure, and our staff had to decide whether a reliable estimate could be calculated.

The editors of Recycling Today are happy to amend the list to include any companies that we failed to reach out to or who did not respond to our information requests but have since reconsidered.

Please send any corrections or additions to DeAnne Toto at

The Stalwarts
It’s no surprise that Sims Metal Management, headquartered in New York City, should take the No. 1 spot on our list. The company, which operates 120 facilities, including its joint venture with Anaheim, Calif.-based Adams Steel that created an entity that operates as SA Recycling, processed 8.7 million tons of ferrous scrap in 2011. This figure is somewhat smaller than the 9 million tons the company was estimated to have processed in 2008.

OmniSource Corp., Fort Wayne, Ind., ranks a distant second. This division of Steel Dynamics, which describes itself as the nation’s fifth largest producer of carbon steel products, processed nearly 6 million tons of ferrous scrap in 2011 at its 70-plus facilities, 11 of which operate automobile shredders.

Advancing to the third spot from its No. 4 position in 2009 is Schnitzer Steel Industries, Portland, Ore., having processed 5.3 million tons of ferrous scrap in 2011. The company made a number of acquisitions in recent years, including Amix Salvage & Sales Ltd., Vancouver, Macon Iron & Paper Stock of Georgia and Steel Pacific Recycling, based in British Columbia.

Schnitzer Steel operates three vertically integrated divisions: ferrous and nonferrous recycling, auto parts recycling and steel manufacturing. In an interview with Recycling Today Managing Editor DeAnne Toto in late 2010, the company’s CEO Tamara Lundgren said, “We leverage the full cycle of the reclamation process—sourcing product through a wide network at the earliest stages of disposal, maximizing the amount of valuable scrap recovered through our innovative shredding and sorting technologies and producing finished steel products with our own recycled scrap.

“At the earliest stage, our APB (auto parts business) generates multiple value streams for the end-of-life cars it purchases by selling used parts through its retail network, separating valuable nonferrous metals and core parts and ultimately selling the crushed auto bodies to metals recyclers, such as our own MRB (metals recycling business),” she says.

“APB is the largest single supplier to our MRB business in California, but MRB also hosts it own network of 44 facilities that collect scrap within the continental U.S. as well as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

“Finally, our Steel Manufacturing Business (SMB) sources 100 percent of the scrap metal it uses through our MRB to produce a wide range of products, including reinforcing bar (rebar), coiled rebar, wire rod, merchant bar and other specialty products,” Lundgren continues. “While the mill pays competitive export pricing for its scrap, it benefits from availability and proximity to our MRB, and the close relationship between the businesses helps MRB to improve the size and purity of the products it provides both to SMB and customers globally.”

Another company many readers expect to see among the top five ferrous scrap processors is The David J. Joseph Co., Cincinnati. This division of steel producer Nucor Corp., which boasts 26 million tons of production capacity, processed 5 million tons of ferrous scrap in 2011, the same figure reported by Tube City IMS, Glassport, Pa. Compared with the 3.9 million tons Tube City was estimated to have processed in 2008, its 2011 ferrous scrap volume grew considerably.

Commercial Metals, Irving, Texas, also grew the volume of ferrous scrap it processed relative to 2008, which increased from 2.8 million tons to 3 million tons. This increase caused it to move up one place on the 2012 list to No. 6.

Also advancing in rank from 2009 to 2012 is American Iron & Metal Co. Inc., based in Quebec. In 2011, the company says it processed 1.8 million tons of ferrous scrap. This is an increase of 500,000 tons, or roughly 15 percent, relative to the 1.3 million tons the company processed in 2008.

Big Deal
Judging by the tonnage handled by the 20 largest ferrous scrap processors in North America, it’s easy to see how ferrous scrap ranks among the most highly recycled material. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington, D.C., notes that 74 million metric tons of ferrous scrap were processed by the U.S. scrap recycling industry alone in 2010, which amounts to more than 55 percent of the volume of all domestically processed recyclables.


The editorial staff of Recycling Today contributed research and reporting to compile this list and the accompanying text.