German recycling groups question steel producers’ math
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German recycling groups question steel producers’ math

BVSE, VDM say Germany’s steel lobby “surprises with creative interpretation of statistics.”

September 22, 2022

In an essay prepared by German metals recycling organizations BVSE and VDM, the two groups say a recently published article prepared by European steel industry organization Eurofer has “interpreted the steel scrap foreign trade figures in a very creative way in order to put them at the service of its own lobbying.”

The two recycling groups say the steelmaking association is using data from two different timeframes to make a comparison. Write co-authors Birgit Guschall-Jaik of BVSE and Kilian Schwaiger of VDM:

“If Eurofer puts the scrap export increase of the years 2005 in relation to 2021, but on the other hand gives the scrap share in crude steel production exclusively for the past year, then there is a certain gap in interpretation.

The scrap input ratios have fluctuated only very slightly between 55.6 and 57.6 percent for 10 years. This means that sufficient quantities of scrap have always been available for the significantly fluctuating cyclical production volume. By the way, the exports increased since 2005 at about 11 million metric tons, but during this time crude steel production in the EU 27 nations [peaked] at about 30 million metric tons.”

The two groups say throughout the timeframe fluctuations in scrap import volumes to the EU were also small. “More remarkable were the fluctuations in exports. This development can be attributed to the lack of possible uses,” write BVSE and VDM.

Continue the groups, “The quantities not needed by European plants were exported to consumers in countries, mainly Turkey, where electric arc furnace (EAF) production has a share of 70 percent. There, the use of the steel scrap has made its world contribution to CO2 savings.”

The circumstance leads BVSE and VDM to ask: “In this context, the question arises why there should be export restrictions if there have never been procurement problems? Why does an organization that is very quick to threaten politicians with emigration and job losses allow itself to harm raw material suppliers with such massive market interventions?”

In their essay’s conclusion, the two recycling organizations ask whether the EU steel industry objections to scrap exports have more to do with protectionism rather than environmentalism.

“One thing is certain: the scrap trade fulfils its function for the benefit of the industry. Why destroy functioning mechanisms? Environmental reasons can only be secondary. It is more likely that the industry no longer wants to face global competition.

It’s really a shame that this association keeps trying to separate us, the recycling industry, and our partners, the smelters. The circular economy can only work if it can take place worldwide.  It is a fallacy that closed markets work. Science teaches that a planned economy is not an alternative,” write BVSE and VDM.