copper wire recycling
Scrap export markets are available to Latin American recyclers, if they can find material.
Photo by Brian Taylor

BIR members report scrap volume woes in Latin America

Association’s Latin America Committee says scrap export opportunities remain in place for recyclers in the region.


Four members of the Latin America Committee of the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) have reported recent reduced scrap generation volumes in the region linked to efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Committee Chair Alejandro Jaramillo of Glorem SC in Mexico writes in a committee update released in late July, “COVID-19 has hit Latin America’s two largest economies -- Brazil and Mexico -- particularly hard.”

“With depressed demand, productivity within the Brazilian steel market remained low from February to May,” writes Roger Amarante of INESFA, the Brazilian Association of Iron and Steel Companies.

The situation was not as grim on the ferrous scrap export side, adds Amarante. “Despite the COVID crisis, exports [of ferrous scrap] from February to June were 15 percent higher year on year,” he writes. “This excellent news for Brazil’s recycling companies was partly due to a lack of demand from domestic plants and the closure of the U.S. and European markets.”

Nicolás Werba of Uruguay-based family nonferrous scrap business Werba SA says that nation has had better success containing the virus, but economic troubles persist. “Despite the fact that COVID-19 seems largely under control domestically, with an average of three new infections per day over recent weeks and 71 active cases as of July 8, the virus has left its mark and has generated many problems.”

Continues Werba in his BIR report, “The economic struggles of neighbors Argentina and Brazil have led to major private companies either performing poorly or remaining closed, thus also affecting scrap generation.”

Chile remains in the midst of its battle with COVID-19, says Nicolás Fernández of Metales y Aluminios SA and Chile’s Asociación Nacional de la Industria del Reciclaje (ANIR). “On average, collections in the region plummeted by 30 percent and, in some cases, by up to 50 percent, as a result of long quarantine periods,” he says of Chile’s situation in the late spring.

Adds Fernández, “The region’s consumers of recyclable materials were forced to reduce their demand given an imminent drop in their sales. Fortunately, countries like Brazil and Mexico are hinting at some lack of supply in late July, so hopefully this will boost their purchases once again.”