Healthy forms of competition

Columns - Editor’s Letter

2018 could see a substantial boost in M&A activity, with investor-driven motives likely playing a role.

March 7, 2018

Recyclers from around the world will gather in Las Vegas in mid-April 2018 for the ISRI2018 Convention & Exposition. The event, hosted by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), draws several thousand recyclers, traders, scrap consumers and industry suppliers from North America and beyond each year.

Conversations and presentations at the 2018 event, as they do each year, will focus in part on the challenges and issues facing the recycling industry. Happily, the 2018 event also seems poised to bring forward many of the positive developments driving the industry.

Global demand for basic materials remains strong, with producers of metal, paper and board and plastic continuing to compete vigorously for market share in sectors that include packaging, automotive and building products.

In January 2018, the CEO of aluminum producer Norsk Hydro referred to that metal as “the fastest growing base metal.” But in each of the above-mentioned sectors, competition remains fierce from producers of (and thus recyclers of) other metallic and nonmetallic materials.

Many companies and governments worldwide continue to proclaim and then try to meet recycling-related sustainability goals. There can be room for skepticism regarding whether some of these entities competing to be the “greenest” will fully back their words with actions, but numerous documented investments have been made.

Suppliers to the scrap and recycling industry were likely happy to hear a forecast from the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation pointing to a 9 percent jump in capital investments in 2018 compared with the year before. Suppliers will be happy to help recyclers compete on the technology and productivity front.

"Global demand for basic materials remains strong, with producers of metal, paper and board and plastic continuing to compete vigorously for market share."

Another form of competition is taking place in diplomatic circles, with nations competing to bolster their manufacturing sectors, seemingly using conflicting doses of protectionism and international agreements or initiatives.

When it comes to economic and policy factors influencing the recycling industry in 2018, many eyes are on China. The country’s barriers to imported scrap materials signal one challenge. A faction of economists worries that years of accumulated off-balance-sheet lending in China could induce wider troubles.

ISRI2018 offers an opportunity to discuss any of these issues. Recycling Today staff members will be on hand throughout the event, and if you would like to get in touch with us and offer a story idea, please visit our media group at Booth No. 2152 in the exhibit hall.