New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food packaging, which is commonly referred to by the Dow trademark Styrofoam, in February.
In a Bloomberg News article, the mayor describes the material as “something that we know is environmentally destructive and that may be hazardous to our health, that is costing taxpayers money and that we can easily do without, and is something that should go the way of lead paint.”
According to the city, an estimated 20,000 tons of EPS food packaging enter its waste stream per year and removing the material from the recycling stream adds an estimated $20 per ton to the cost of recycling.
In advance of Bloomberg’s State of the City address in which he called for restrictions on the use of EPS foam, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Washington, D.C., said it was willing to work with New York City to explore the possibilities of developing an effective polystyrene foam recycling program for the city.
In a written statement, Steve Russell, ACC vice president of plastics, says, “We would welcome the opportunity to explore polystyrene foam food service recycling with the city. The technology exists to recycle polystyrene foam food service right now. California is making this work—22 percent of households there can recycle polystyrene foam food service cups, plates, bowls, clamshells and other containers at curbside.”
He adds, “Polystyrene foam food service products make up less than 1 percent of our nation’s solid waste, according to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). They use significantly less energy and water to manufacture than paper alternatives and create significantly less waste by weight and comparable waste by volume.”
Russell says the proposed ban also ignores the fact that successful examples of EPS recycling exist, such as the program in place in California.
Also, according to the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers (AFPR) website, www.epspackaging.org/images/stories/EPS_Sustainability_Tenets-lores.pdf, EPS packaging meets five of the criteria for sustainable packaging based on the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s definition.
Many examples exist for handling recyclables that are more complicated to recycle for various reasons, if only legislators would be willing to acknowledge and further develop such solutions rather than opt for banning such materials outright.
Theories abound as to why the price of copper has soared to an historically high range in the past 10 years, with the metal’s role as an investment product pointed to by some as a reason to think the commodity’s value is overdue for a “correction.”
At the recently concluded Middle East Metals Recycling Conference, held in Dubai in early March 2013, a number of presentations addressed the copper market’s fundamentals.
While by no means disputing that some investment dollars have been put into copper, the event’s speakers also outlined a number of supply and demand reasons that back up the red metal’s red hot status.
Michael Lion, chairman and director of Sims Metal Management Asia Ltd., Hong Kong, told conference attendees several factors are causing copper to be considered “the new gold.”
On the demand side, as several Asian nations have experienced strong, steady economic growth, “demand for copper has grown far faster than for other materials,” Lion said.
Copper has proven to be a metallic element that is vital for allowing people around the world to enjoy the technological advances the planet has experienced in the past century.
Electrical wiring allows cars being built all over the world to start up and for the drivers of those cars to see the road ahead of them. In 2012, that was no small amount of copper wire, as some 63 million passenger vehicles and 21 million commercial vehicles were produced last year, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, Paris.
In nations with booming economies, passenger trains, subway lines and airliners also are being deployed in record numbers. These large passenger carriages are typically wired with copper from front to back, with the red metal playing vital electro-mechanical roles.
At home, established middle-class populations in the developed world and burgeoning middle classes in the developing world are entertained, can refrigerate or freeze a month’s supply of food, can see at night and can communicate long distance because of copper wiring. As well, copper tubing helps keep that food preserved and also converts hot air to cool air—no small task in the hot climates that host wide swaths of the emerging markets.
Brass plumbing fittings play another vital role in emerging middle-class lifestyles, helping to ensure fresh water flows freely in homes and throughout the cities hosting hundreds of millions of new urban migrants.
At urban workplaces, whether an office or a manufacturing plant, electrically powered devices have increased productivity and efficiency by multitudes.
The spread of this copper-intensive lifestyle is reflected in urbanization figures for high-GDP-growth nations such as China. (See the sidebar “City Living”)
It also is reflected in copper production statistics. In 2011, world refined copper production was an estimated 19.8 million metric tons, up from 15.2 million metric tons in 2002.
While the demand for copper escalates, the world’s copper mining companies strain to keep up with this demand. “There is usually not enough of it,” Lion said of global mined copper output.
Producers are very cognizant of avoiding overcapacity, he added, and even when striving to provide more copper, “production never seems to meet its targets,” Lion told attendees.
As the developing world craves more copper, recyclers of copper and brass scrap grades have played important roles in feeding that craving.
Some 40 percent of the world’s copper is made of recycled metal, according to Mujtaba Mir, director of Dubai-based Mir Metals Trading LLC, who also addressed attendees at the Middle East Metals Recycling Conference.
Urban dwellers, especially those able to attain a middle-class lifestyle, will strive to own washers, dryers, ovens, air conditioning units—things that consume metal when manufactured and then enter the scrap stream as obsolete scrap at the end of their lives.
As well, as cities grow their infrastructures and their numbers of high-rise apartment buildings, shops and manufacturing sectors, countless tons of structural steel, aluminum cable and copper wire are deployed.
The growth of urban areas has been considerable in some parts of the world in the past 30 years. According to the World Bank:
Mir paid special attention to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and its ability to collect and export copper and brass scrap to other parts of the world.
Some 16,000 tons per month of copper and brass scrap are generated in the eight-nation GCC region, according to Mir’s estimate, with very few destinations to melt that scrap within the GCC.
Half of the generated total occurs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with generation “increasing day-to-day,” Mir said. The booming construction sector yields much of that scrap, with wire, cable, tubing and pipe being common types of scrap.
In another presentation, economist Shady Shaher of Standard Chartered Bank’s Dubai wholesale banking office said there are sound reasons why the construction boom in the GCC or entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region can continue to produce this red metal scrap.
Citing the “the three Ds—demographics, diversification and differentiation,” Shaher said the GCC’s oil-rich nations in particular are putting considerable investment into infrastructure and economic expansion.
In the MENA region overall, 55 percent of the population is below the age of 24, a demographic factor that points to future economic growth.
In part because of the size of this future labor force, investments are being made into economic diversification beyond oil production, which is not labor-intensive.
The differentiation Shaher refers to is the very different economic factors, such as oil reserves, that separate nations within the MENA region from each other.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is growing both in population and in government spending, with much of the spending on metals-intense infrastructure projects. Government budgets there are “about doubling over the past few years” said Shaher, and even so the kingdom tends to run at a surplus because of its oil-related revenues.
The Saudi government has been building schools and colleges throughout the kingdom. It has recently built “19 hospitals, with another 102 under construction,” Shaher said. As well, the kingdom is financing multiple power projects and “has 36,000 kilometers of roads under construction.”
Investments in economic diversification by the Saudi government involve attracting foreign investment to industrial zones and developing industries downstream of petro-chemical refining, such as manufacturing plastic auto components.
Similar infrastructure and economic diversification efforts are underway in the UAE and Qatar, stimulating metals-intense activity that both consumes finished copper and generates copper and brass scrap.
There is no shortage of willing buyers for the rich flows of red metal scrap emanating from the Middle East, with India and China being the most common destinations. “India knows and likes this material,” Mir said of the red metal scrap grades packaged in the GCC region.
Speaking at another session at the same conference, Muzammil Haji Amin of Dubai-based ALA Metals LLC noted shipping red metal scrap from the busy Port Dubai involves “quick shipments to India and the Far East, with less transit time [compared with Europe or North America] and freight rates are close to zero in some cases.”
Far East Horizon
For many red metal scrap processors in North America, the market in China remains the predominant export market.
Speaking at the Middle East Metals Recycling Conference, Wu Yan of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association Recycling Metals Branch (CMRA), affirmed that China’s secondary copper production industry “relies on imports.”
Chinese recyclers, brass mills and copper refiners import as much as 4 million tons of copper-bearing scrap each year. Wu said she foresees the construction, power, transportation and consumer electronics industries in China continuing to require copper (and thus imported copper scrap) for many years to come.
China’s federal government, she said, is supportive of the secondary copper industry and has earmarked funds in its 12th five-year plan to improve technology at copper smelting and refining plants as well as at the scrap facilities that help prepare the feedstock for this sector.
“Technological development is very important,” said Wu, for environmental reasons and because labor costs are rising, making improved automation worthwhile. “It is a big challenge for some traditional recycling companies,” Wu said of labor costs. “They must [invest] to change their method of processing.”
In 2012, recyclers in North America sold less copper-bearing scrap by volume to China compared with what was shipped from the region in 2011.
Statistics compiled by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Reston, Va., had the U.S. shipping 383,000 tons of copper scrap to China in 2011 and 557,000 tons of copper-bearing alloyed or mixed metal scrap, for a total of 940,000 tons.
As of early March, the USGS had not yet finalized its December 2012 figures. But in the first 11 months, the U.S. shipped 315,000 tons of copper scrap and 494,000 tons of alloyed and copper-heavy mixed metal scrap. If this total of 809,000 is joined by a 2012 monthly average of 73,500 tons, that equates to just 882,000 tons shipped from the U.S. to China in 2012, down 5.8 percent.
To what extent this reflects that China is generating and processing greater amounts of red metal scrap within its own borders is difficult to discern, as statistics are not necessarily gathered or distributed within the country.
Presenter Scott Newell of The Shredder Co. LLC, Canutillo, Texas, noted that 30 auto shredders now are installed in China, and he predicted that it will only take a few years before the shredder population there reaches 100.
The shredder increase, he noted, is indicative of a larger stream of end-of-life cars and appliances that not only will produce ferrous scrap but also additional nonferrous flows. China also has an expanding network of more than 70 licensed electronic scrap shredding facilities, which likewise will yield more red metal scrap from the postconsumer sector.
At least one presenter at the Middle East Metals Recycling Conference, however, expressed optimism that as China begins its new year, it will result in increased scrap buying.
As China transitions from the year of the dragon to the year of the snake, Amin of ALA Metals said, “We expect good business in China this year, starting in March. There are better days to come.”
The author is editorial director of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electronics are part of our everyday waste stream. Many government officials say they feel the improper disposal of such devices presents a risk to both American jobs and to the world’s environment.
To that end, a bill known as the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA) was introduced in Congress as HR 2284 in June 2011 by Texas Rep. Gene Green, a Democrat, with 14 Republicans and nine Democrats signing on as co-sponsors. However, it died in committee. According to his office, Green will reintroduce the measure in this session of Congress. The bill restricts exports of untested and nonworking electronics from the U.S. to developing countries, though it would still allow free trade of tested and working used electronics being exported for reuse.
The measure is either a gold mine for domestic recyclers or a disaster for those who deal with electronics reuse whether in the United States or abroad.
The big selling point for supporters of HR 2284-style legislation is the number of domestic jobs that could be created. The original legislation was supported by major electronics manufacturers, including Dell, HP, Apple and Samsung, as well as by the retailer Best Buy and the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER), which represents 82 U.S. companies that operate 158 electronics recycling and disposition facilities in 34 U.S. states.
“There is some confusion that these are onerous regulations on mom-and-pop recyclers,” says Neil Peters-Michaud, CEO of Cascade Asset Management and a member of the CAER steering committee. “The purpose is not to have more burdensome rules. We are the people who will be subject to these rules. They were not just developed by environmentalists but by business.”
Peters-Michaud says there may be some modifications in this year’s version of the bill, which already has 28 co-sponsors.
However, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), Washington, D.C., and several other electronics recyclers oppose such legislation.
“Before we jump into comprehensive policy based on the presumption that the vast majority of this material is dumped, we need better data and record keeping,” says Eric Harris, ISRI’s associate counsel and director of government and international affairs.
Harris says that support for HR 2284 is based on out-of-date presumptions. “It would cause multiple violations of U.S. trade regulations under GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules,” Harris says of such proposed legislation.
Peters-Michaud counters that any version of HR 2284 is essentially what most other nations agreed to in the Basel Convention accords. “That has stood up to WTO rules,” he says. “We will be implementing the same legislation that other countries already have in place.”
On top of that, Harris says, the measure would amend Subtitle C of RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act). “It would essentially redraft how we classify hazardous waste in the United States,” he says.
“We are confident that it will not go through,” says Robin Ingenthron of American Retroworks and Good-Point Recycling, Middlebury, Vt., of the bill.
Ingenthron, an electronics recycler who lived in Africa, believes the bill incorrectly assumes or implies that citizens in developing countries are incapable of proper recycling.
He says he is proud of the fact he has sold more than 300,000 monitors to Egypt and has sent electronics to buyers around the world.
Ingenthron also says he fears that parts of the bill are in contradiction of WTO requirements.
However, Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, San Francisco, dismisses concerns about WTO and RCRA. “You must be consistent—otherwise, you are open to a WTO challenge,” she says, adding that she feels the bill is solid there.
“It does not try to undo RCRA. All of those definitions are not changed,” she says. She agrees that wholesale change to RCRA could have potential dire consequences for domestic handlers of obsolete electronics. “It does add a clear, additional section…a new category of restricted waste and says it can’t go to developing nations,” she says.
What the Bill Says
The bill makes a division between Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and non-OECD nations. It is easiest to think of non-OECD nations as underdeveloped countries, though there are exceptions to that rule-of-thumb, such as Singapore. The OECD, headquartered in Paris, sets international standards on a wide range of things, from agriculture and taxes to the safety of chemicals. It says it seeks “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.”
Kyle says HR 2284 follows OECD definitions and is important because it parallels the Basel Convention.
“Everyone else in the world (except the United States) adheres to the Basel Convention,” she says. “The bill is a different path…a legislative way to do the same thing,” Kyle says.
Whether it is reincarnated as HR 2284 in the current session or under another number, the measure would prohibit export of certain electronic scrap from the United States to non-OECD nations. Treated and working equipment could still be exported to promote reuse. However, used electronics that were not fully functional or were not tested could not be exported under the terms of the proposed legislation, nor could shredded electronics containing toxic chemicals.
Kyle says she expects Green again to be the lead sponsor of the proposed legislation and says she sees no substantive changes beyond “minor tweaks.”
The measure, as originally written, has a couple of exceptions. It does not prohibit export of crushed cathode ray tube (CRT) glass cullet that is prepared as feedstock and other material streams that do not contain hazardous chemicals. Interestingly, electronic parts of a motor vehicle were excluded in early versions of HR 2284. It allows auto batteries to be shipped back to non-OECD countries such as China.
However, for general exporting, there are no exceptions in the bill: It is strictly OECD and non-OECD, Kyle says.
Harris says he would like to see better enforcement of existing CRT rules. “Clean up those standards. Use the existing guidelines,” he says.
A study sponsored by CAER and conducted by DSM Environmental Services Inc., a Windsor, Vt.-based research and consulting firm focused on recycling, materials management and solid waste management strategies, says the act will be a boon to domestic recyclers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the country generated more than 3.1 million tons of e-waste in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available. Vast amounts of strategic commodities are recovered from electronic scrap, including rare earth metals, gold, copper and aluminum. CAER charges that these valuable recyclables are sold for pennies on the dollar to broker/exporters and are then processed overseas for sale to global markets at full value—a loss of export revenue and jobs.
“This study shows that if Congress takes action to make sure e-waste goes to U.S. recyclers instead of being exported to developing nations, then they will be creating tens of thousands of jobs for Americans and growing our economy,” Kyle says.
“If it is toxic and not working or not tested, it will not be able to go to developing nations as whole product,” Kyle says.
She and the measure’s supporters say that requiring the initial processing here in the United States will provide a significant number of domestic jobs.
In short, the CAER-sponsored study says processing e-scrap in the U.S. instead of exporting it to developing countries would create 21,000 full-time-equivalent recycling jobs with a corresponding payroll of $772 million. DSM’s study says the bill, if passed, has the potential to create 21,000 indirect jobs (or 42,000 total jobs) as well.
The number of jobs would increase as e-scrap volumes rise in the years ahead, the study projects. That outlook is based on U.S. EPA estimates that e-scrap is growing two to three times faster than any other portion of the waste stream, fueled by the ongoing proliferation of electronic devices.
“We are exporting jobs with every container of used products we send overseas,” Kyle says.
Ingenthron disagrees, however. “We create more jobs this way than the act would,” he says, pointing to both domestic and overseas employment. He notes that he pays employees to tear down TV sets. If every sixth TV is suited to the export market, the tear-down workers are paid the same even though it goes to a different worker who tests it for shipment.
“If we do it their way, those TVs would go to the shredder and two workers would be out of a job,” he says.
Harris questions even the basic assumptions driving the measure. “To what extent are end-of-life electronics moving to these markets?”
He adds that groups supporting a measure like HR 2284 have to be basing their support on “the antiquated, anecdotal premise that 80 percent of the market is being dumped.”
He points to a 2011 study by Framingham, Mass.-based IDC that did an assessment of the e-recycling business and found that about 3.5 million tons of the 7 million tons of used electronics were being recycled. “The vast majority of the rest of that is going to landfills or not being collected from residential households,” Harris says.
“It is not an export ban that will get us there—it is better recycling and collection to keep e-waste out of landfills,” Harris says.
“This targets those who are packing and stacking without adding value,” Peters-Michaud says of the proposed legislation. “That is not a way to create value in the recycling industry.”
Supporters of 2284 do not want to leave the door open to exporting hazardous waste under the guise of recyclable goods.
Doing it Right
There is at least one point of agreement on the issue of exporting used electronics.
“The important thing is to be sure it is done right,” Ingenthron says.
Defining “done right” is the rub. An April 16, 2013, meeting at Middlebury College in Vermont attempted to answer that challenge, bringing together recyclers from America, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Peru.
“We are confident that stating the right questions about exports, waste and commodities at the beginning (of the conference) will help move the discussion away from simple ‘poverty porn’ describing the 6 billion people living in the non-OECD –including places like Singapore,” Ingenthron says. “We hope at the very least to get a consensus on what the correct measures are before the surgery of prohibitions and boycotts and nontariff barriers is employed,” he adds.
CAER charges, “Significant demand exists today for responsible American electronics recycling, though that’s not necessarily what the public gets right now.”
CAER’s members include several dozen firms, such as multi-state operations like Waste Management; Metech Inc.; Creative Recycling Systems; Electronic Recyclers International Inc.; Lifespan Technology; and Sims Recycling.
Harris questions whether all of the recyclers who have signed on to the CAER initiative understand what it is they support and whether they are clear on what would be forced onto the industry.
“Look at the number of members,” he exclaims. “Collectively, they have to be moving a substantial amount of material into the developing world.”
The implementation of any such electronics recycling legislation would be based on OECD determinations.
Ingenthron says the OECD (now 50 years old) deservedly was known in the 1960s as “a white man’s club,” adding that it did not originally include Japan or Korea—major players in the computer and smartphone industry. Singapore still is not part of OECD. How silly is it, he asks, that countries where electronics are invented, engineered and manufactured did not meet guidelines. Many of those countries, he adds, still have huge poor populations.
Will it Happen?
The fate of any reincarnation of HR 2284 is less than certain. First, Green no longer chairs the subcommittee on energy and commerce. And another leading co-sponsor, Steven LaTourette of Ohio, declined to run for office again, citing his disgust with the ability of his comrades in Congress to work together. (His disgust was based more on economic issues than this particular measure.)
In the meantime, groups like ISRI say e-recycling businesses would be better served by looking at guidelines developed by the Interagency Task Force on Electronics Stewardship set up by the Obama administration to look at handling of e-scrap. The task force released the “National Strategy for Electronic Stewardship” in July 2011. The task force was co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Policy, the U.S. EPA and the General Services Administration. It calls for an “innovative, flexible and pragmatic” strategy for handling electronic materials.
The report sees a good electronics recycling policy as an “opportunity to prevent environmental harm, conserve valuable resources, save money, create jobs and invest in our economic development.”
It builds on four pillars: green design, the federal government leading by example, increasing safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the U.S. and reducing harm from exports of e-scrap and improving safe handling of used electronics in developing countries.
Supporters are optimistic that the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act will move to a vote this time around. Most of the education on Capitol Hill has been accomplished. The jobs study means it plays into a hot-spot for the current Congress.
The author is a contributing editor to Recycling Today based in Cleveland. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Study Looks into Electronics Reuse
ISRI has welcomed a U. S. International Trade Commission study on electronics reuse: www.RecyclingToday.com/isri-welcomes-release-itc-study.aspx.
Over the past several decades, James (Jim) W. Lawrence has helped scrap metal company employers and employees learn more about how to properly identify metals and alloys. Lawrence has conducted training for co-workers over the years and often has been an instructor at metals identification workshops and training courses offered by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), Washington, D.C.
With the advent of hand-held metals identification analyzers in the late 1990s, scrap processors have had access to a fast and accurate way to identify inbound scrap at the scale without having to take samples to a lab in another part of their facilities.
As Lawrence, currently general manager of ISA Alloys, Louisville, Ky., notes in the following interview, the use of such analyzers does not mean scrap buyers can get by with knowing less about the metals they are inspecting and purchasing.
If anything, Lawrence says, new challenges are mounting. As metals producers introduce new alloys that are now being seen in scrap yards, they likewise expect their scrap suppliers to check and recheck their shipments to ensure the quality is better than ever.
Recycling Today (RT): What are some of the similar-looking but metallurgically different metals or alloys that have historically required know-how to identify properly at a scrap yard?
Jim Lawrence (JL): I think this is what makes the stainless and alloy field so difficult and goes right to the heart of metals identification. For example, we look at a stainless steel sink and we can all say, “It is stainless steel.” Then you go to Home Depot and see a price range from $228 to $800 and ask, “What the heck?”
A stainless sink can be 201, which is 4 percent nickel with manganese; there also is 201 with copper; there is 301, which is 7 percent nickel; and 304, which is 8 percent nickel. So a simple stainless sink can be four completely different materials, but they all look the same. There are valves that have markings on them. For example, CF8M is a common casting grade that is 316 stainless, which is a nickel-chromium-molybdenum grade. There is nothing easy or simple in the stainless steel and high-temperature alloy grades.
I had an old teacher who taught me to learn the applications and you will be able to understand and determine what the metals are. Applications include the chemical industry, where molybdenum-bearing grades are critical; the sea vessel applications that require corrosion resistance; the food industry; the automotive industry; the aircraft industry, etc. I think of all the metals, the stainless and alloy part of our business still remains a mystery to many.
RT: Prior to analyzers, what were the methods scrap recyclers could use to differentiate metals that look similar?
JL: This is a great question because this is the era I came from. We used acid testing, and those acids would not identify the metal per se. However if, for example, we were checking a stainless material and let’s say it was a piece of pipe and it came from a chemical plant, we would, through application, guess that it was 316, which contains molybdenum.
We had an acid test that would turn pink, which indicated the presence of molybdenum and the deeper the red, the higher the molybdenum content. We had acids that would test for chromium, nickel, manganese, etc. But to use the acids, you needed to have some idea of what you were checking.
We used spark testing, which was very effective. Even back in the early 1900s, many steel mills used this method and achieved accurate results. Spark testing has become a lost art, but I still use it, and it is very effective for identifying materials.
We also used a Fuess Spectroscope, which is an instrument that uses the spectra of elements by using a prism grating instrument. Using the spectrum of elements, you checked your unknown with a known alloy. This was a very difficult instrument to master but was very effective and still is in use today. We also used the file meter, which is also still in use today and is very inexpensive but also very effective.
Different metals will give off a different reading as the material is filed, and that reading is consistent with the alloy being checked. The early instrument that began the reading type analysis was the Kevex, which used a radioactive isotope that began the instrument-type technology.
And finally, the most important tool of all was, and still is, the most effective tool in the stainless and alloy industry: the magnet! The magnet will differentiate 300 from 400, identify 301, separate R & K Monel, help identify nickel-chromium grades of stainless, etc. Identifying is a process of elimination—application, color, density, markings and magnetic properties. Today’s identification needs to be a combination of the old methods and the new technology.
RT: With stainless alloys in particular, how can proper/improved separation make a financial difference at a scrap yard?
JL: This is huge. We receive loads of stainless every day with higher grades of stainless and alloys mixed in. Many can be seen by application and markings. The best example of this is finding 316 mixed in with 304, and so often it is valves that are clearly marked with the CF8M.
The difference can be as much as 30 cents per pound or more. So if you find 1,000 pounds of 316, that is $300 per load. When you get into alloys that are $4 per pound and up, the dollars can mount up quickly.
By the same token, using the magnet will quickly identify lower grades of stainless to prevent expensive downgrades and also leads to thousands of dollars both on the buy side and sale side. Knowing what you are buying and buying it right is just as important as selling it and eliminating downgrades and pulling out the materials that are of higher value.
RT: What are some common complaints or claims from foundries and mills that might stem from improper identification?
JL: The biggest problem for stainless is copper. The specifications are 0.50, and with the price of nickel today there is a great deal of substituting copper for nickel. Identifying these copper-alloyed grades is very difficult, and we are finding grades such as 301 and 201 with copper, and it is making it very difficult. This often drives melts into penalty situations. The presence of tin is another problem that can lead to disaster in stainless melts.
RT: How have hand-held analyzers helped improve metals identification processes?
JL: The hand-held analyzers have been a big help in identifying things like copper, as mentioned before, as well as other elements, such as tin and lead, that can lead to serious quality problems at the melting facilities. The new units also can check for light elements such as phosphorous, which is another problem in the stainless field that leads to radiation problems as well as serious melt issues. The hand-held units also are a big help in identifying nickel and cobalt alloys that have very high values that can then be sorted and shipped as their own item. All of this relates to a very high return on investment.
RT: What are a few common shortcomings when using handheld analyzers of which processors should be aware?
JL: The shortcomings of the hand-held analyzers, or guns, involve not using them properly to get an accurate reading. These analyzers must be calibrated daily against a certified sample. The preparation of the surface of the piece being checked also is critical to obtain an accurate reading. Too often, users do not do this and get false readings that can be expensive mistakes.
A good example is when a customer of mine asked for a price on Ni200 (low-alloy 99 percent nickel) at a time when nickel was at $18 per pound. He bought the material and when I saw it, I knew it was not Ni200 because the application did not apply. I used a grinder to prepare the surface and the sparks indicated it was nickel-plated iron worth maybe 20 cents per pound. So, in this case, the old application and grinder told me what it was and using the gun cost him a lot of money.
Another problem we see is that the reading a shipper has and the reading a receiver has can be different, causing a differential in dollars. These guns do very well, but everyone has to understand the variances and needs to be careful using the analysis as the exact recovery.
Another problem, a big problem, is that too often those using the hand-held do not scroll the entire analysis to read all the elements. They allow the instrument to use the installed library to identify the piece being checked. It only means that the reading fits closest to that analysis. Good sorters will use all their knowledge to confirm the identification.
RT: As of 2013, what are some areas where there is room for improvement in how recyclers identify scrap metal?
JL: There is no question that identifying metals is a journey, especially as the price of intrinsic elements continues to rise. The mills and the foundries are constantly looking for ways to reduce their costs while increasing the value of the applications they are being used in.
There are now duplex alloys being used to replace 316 stainless, and this trend is only going to continue. The research and development units at steel mills around the world continue to experiment with residual elements that can be used to replace higher-cost elements. We have seen this with the use of using copper to replace nickel. The development many years ago of substituting manganese for nickel reduced costs while still making the application work. We are going to continue to see this kind of development and as this happens we are going to need to be able to identify those alloys and elements to meet the very stringent quality controls at the melting facilities.
We are in a very competitive environment in the recycling industry, and metals identification is a real competitive edge. Controlling costs and maintaining strict quality control measures must be a part of what every shipper has to concentrate on each day.
Jim Lawrence is general manager of ISA Alloys, Louisville, Ky. The company can be reached on the web at www.isa-inc.com/stainless-a-alloys/alloyscontactinfo.
I have told the story many times. I had traveled half way around the world to make several presentations in Europe. After being introduced to speak to a group of business professionals in Warsaw, Poland, I noticed a hand in the air before I even spoke. As translated, the question was: “With all due respect, was there no one closer than Arizona who could talk to us about shredding?”
Although that happened almost eight years ago, it marked the beginning of the thought process that led to the association’s recently launched NAID ’em campaign. In general, people think of data destruction as the act of shredding or, in the case of IT assets, wiping. Like the lady in Warsaw, they see it as a very simple process, one that certainly does not require an expert.
And, it is not just the layman who thinks this way. Policymakers and security professionals perpetuate the concept that data destruction is nothing more than shredding or wiping. I often have said that I could be completely compliant with many government destruction specifications if I used known criminals and destroyed information on the most crime ridden intersection of town. Their specifications focus simply on the act of destruction, not the attendant processes required for proper secure destruction.
The problem lies in the limited scope of the words we are saddled with. “Shredding” and “wiping” evoke the simple destruction event to the exclusion of employee screening, access control, training, written policies, written procedures, auditing and vendor selection criteria. In the absence of a word that better characterizes the full scope of proper data destruction, we are forced to default to words that, by definition, undermine the need and value of a more thorough and compliant approach.
What word could better encompass the full definition of proper destruction than the unique acronym for the association whose mission it is to define and promote proper data destruction? For many, including service providers and customers, NAID is already synonymous with proper destruction.
And so, the association set out to change the conventional terms that undermine the industry’s inherent value. Somewhere along the way, NAID members and their customers will benefit from this terminology, which better captures the principles of proper data destruction. We no longer just shred documents and wipe drives because that sells NAID members short. We “NAID ’em.”
Bob Johnson is CEO of the National Association for Information Destruction, Phoenix. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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