steel shredded scrap
Scrap-consuming EAF steel production globally rose by 14.4 percent in 2021 compared with 2020.
Photo by Recycling Today staff.

BIR Convention: Globalization rollback not evident in ferrous trade

The Bureau of International Recycling says transboundary trade in ferrous scrap rose nearly 10 percent in 2021.

May 25, 2022

The Ferrous Division of the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling has published the 13th edition of its “World Steel Recycling in Figures,” which contains global steelmaking and ferrous scrap trading figures for the years 2017 to 2021. The statistics for 2021 showed that despite trade policy and supply chain disruptions, cross-border ferrous scrap trading increased last year.

The print edition of the 44-page booklet was distributed at the BIR Ferrous Division meeting in late May in Barcelona by BIR Ferrous Statistics Advisor Rolf Willeke and Ferrous Division President Denis Reuter of Germany-based TSR Recycling. The 2021 edition also contains a new subtitle: “Steel Scrap - a Raw Material for Green Steelmaking.”

Citing “official trade statistics” and German steel federation WV Stahl, the BIR says global external steel scrap trade—including trade between EU nations—amounted to 109.6 million metric tons last year, representing a 9.7 increase compared with 2020.

Turkey last year again was the world’s largest ferrous scrap importer, bringing in slightly less than 25 million metric tons, or 11.4 percent more than in 2020, according to BIR. The country’s main supplier was the United States, from which it booked 3.77 million metric tons (down 13.7 percent from the 2020 volume).

Brexit changed the scrap trade dynamic in the EU. In 2021, the EU-27 took over as the world’s second-largest steel scrap importer, raising its import volume by 31.1 percent to more than 5.36 million metric tons. The region’s new main supplier was the United Kingdom, which supplied more than 1.63 million metric tons of ferrous scrap to its former EU compatriots.

The U.S. was the world’s third-largest ferrous scrap importer last year, bringing in more than 5.26 million metric tons. The majority of that scrap (3.75 million metric tons, or 71 percent) came from Canada.

Nations with rising ferrous scrap appetites in 2021 were South Korea (up 8.9 percent to nearly 4.8 million metric tons); Thailand (+18 percent to 1.65 million metric tons); Malaysia (+9.8 percent to 1.53 million metric tons); and Indonesia (+3 percent to 1.46 million metric tons).

Countries buying less overseas scrap in 2021 included India (-4.6 percent to 5.13 million metric tons); Pakistan (-8.4 percent to 4.16 million metric tons); Belarus (-14.7 percent to 1.14 million metric tons; and Canada (-21 percent to 815,000 metric tons).

Although China was by far the world’s largest steelmaker in 2021, BIR says its statistics indicate ferrous scrap consumption in that nation was 2.8 percent lower last year. Nonetheless, the 226.2 million metric tons consumed there means the country remained the world’s largest scrap user, thanks in part to an 11.5 percent increase in scrap-intensive electric arc furnace (EAF) production.

Steelmakers in the EU-27 nations upped their ferrous scrap intake by 16.7 percent (to 87.85 million metric tons) in 2021. In the U.S., steelmakers melted 18.3 percent more scrap, rising to 59.4 million metric tons of consumption.

Scrap surplus nations and regions with active export markets included the EU-27 as the world’s leading steel scrap exporter in 2021. It grew its outbound shipments by 11.5 percent last year, shipping out 19.46 million metric tons, with Turkey buying 13.1 million million metric tons, or 67 percent of the total.

U.S. export activity increased by 6.1 percent last year, rising to 17.9 million metric tons. Its largest buyer was an overland destination, with Mexico acquiring 3.14 million metric tons, or 17.5 percent of that total. 

The booklet also offers steel production statistics accumulated by the Brussels-based World Steel Association (Wordlsteel). Member nations of that organization contributed to a 2021 global crude steel production of 1.952 billion metric tons.

China’s steel output fell by 3 percent in 2021 compared with the year before, but it still accounted for 56.6 percent of the Worldsteel output total.

Steel output rose in many other nations in 2021 compared with the year before, including in the EU-27 (+15.4 percent); Japan (+15.8 percent); India (+17.9 percent); the U.S. (+18 percent); Russia (+5 percent); South Korea (+5 percent); Turkey (+12.7 percent); and Canada (+18.1 percent).

Also, according to Worldsteel, global basic oxygen furnace (BOF) production was essentially flat last year at 1.381 billion metric tons. EAF production, on the other hand, was higher by 14.4 percent compared with 2020, rising to 563 million metric tons.

The 13th edition of the BIR “World Steel Recycling in Figures” booklet can be viewed here