Metals, Legislation & Regulation

Departments - Newsworthy

Recent news from the various sectors of the recycling industry

April 29, 2022

California agency pressures Sims Metal after fire

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), Sacramento, California, says it has ordered the operators of the Sims Metal auto shredding facility in Redwood City, California, “to determine the extent of toxic pollution coming from their facility and to clean it up.”

The attention to the Redwood City shredding plant comes after a March 9 fire at the yard. “The investigation and cleanup evaluation will include recent and historical release at the facility, including any impacts from [the] March 9 fire,” the DTSC writes.

The DTSC has undertaken a consistent and sometimes high-visibility campaign to scrutinize the air and water emissions of auto shredding facilities, to the extent that the issue is front and center on the homepage of its website. At times, its scrutiny has been focused on the Schnitzer Steel Industries yard in Oakland, California, or the SA Recycling yard near Los Angeles.

On at least one occasion, recycling companies and their advocates successfully have challenged orders or actions taken by the DTSC.

The DTSC says it is concerned about potential health impacts on people living and working near the Sims Redwood City facility. The 12-acre recycling and shredding operation also “is adjacent to Redwood Creek, a public trail and two islands that are part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge,” the DTSC writes, adding that Redwood Creek leads into the San Francisco Bay.

“Metal recycling facilities have drawn our attention because of the potential exposure from harmful materials coming from these types of operations,” says DTSC Director Dr. Meredith Williams.

The DTSC says Sims “receives, sorts, separates and stores bulk metal scrap for sale and export and operates a conveyor that deposits the material onto ships” at the Redwood City shredder yard.

The agency cites concerns about “elevated levels of lead, zinc and cadmium both on- and off-site.” In 2019, the DTSC says its inspectors “discovered hazardous waste levels of toxic chemicals in several places within facility grounds. Inspectors also found buildup of light fibrous materials, a hazardous substance, on the facility’s pavement and near its operations.”

Regarding its latest enforcement order, the DTSC says “the named parties must meet certain deadlines and submit required investigation reports to the DTSC, including a plan for cleaning up contamination.”

Once the named parties have submitted the proposed plan for decontaminating the site to the DTSC, the agency says it “will notify the surrounding community, so residents can weigh in on the proposed cleanup plan.”

Door opens wider for UK steel, aluminum

Negotiators from the United States and the United Kingdom have forged what trade representatives from the U.S. call a “novel agreement” with the U.K. that allows for “historically based sustainable volumes of U.K. steel and aluminum products to enter the U.S. market without the application of Section 232 tariffs.” 

The agreement places U.S. import volume quotas on metals produced in the U.K., including steel rebar and several types of semifinished steel, stainless steel and aluminum, such as billets and slabs. Scrap is not listed as being subject to any quotas.

The U.S. Department of Commerce says in a news release, “In addition to novel smelt and cast requirements on aluminum, this deal also requires that any U.K. steel company owned by a Chinese entity must undertake an audit of their financial records to assess influence from the Chinese government. The results of these audits must also be shared with the United States.”

The department also refers to China in describing the agreement as one that will “counter unfair trade practices by China that harm our industries and workers.” It is likely the Commerce Department has in mind Scunthorpe, U.K.-based British Steel Ltd., which is part of China’s Jingye Group.

The Commerce Department states, “This critical deal will not only help to ensure the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries and protect American jobs but, once implemented, it will also lift retaliatory tariffs on over $500 million worth of U.S. exports to the U.K., including distilled spirits, various agriculture products and consumer goods. This deal serves as another example of President Biden’s commitment to rebuilding and strengthening relationships with our vital allies and partners while working together to address unfair practices by countries like China.”

Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo says, “By allowing for a flow of duty-free steel and aluminum from the U.K., we further ease the gap between supply and demand for these products in the United States. And by removing the U.K.’s retaliatory tariffs, we reopen the British market to beloved American products. I want to thank my counterpart, U.K. Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan, for her part in this effort, which brings our countries closer together and represents a win-win for both businesses and consumers in the U.S. and the U.K.”

United States Trade Representative Katherine C. Tai adds, “In addition to the U.K. eliminating the retaliatory tariffs against the United States, we have also agreed to continue engaging on the threat posed by carbon-intensive nonmarket excess capacity in the steel and aluminum industries.”

The full 84-page announcement, which includes an 80-page list of covered products, can be found at

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