copper scrap shipment
Photo by Recycling Today staff.

Overseas demand stays strong in 2021

U.S. government statistics show overseas buyers remained in the market for aluminum, copper and ferrous scrap.

March 10, 2022

Scrap traders may have encountered additional inspection systems and quality requirements in recent years, but trade figures continue to demonstrate that nations with fast-growing economies continue to pursue scrap metal generated in the United States.

U.S. status as a scrap surplus nation means data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau and aggregated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) portray that ports remain open to receive inbound scrap metal.

Those figures show the U.S. sent out some 2.1 million metric tons of aluminum scrap to other nations last year. Malaysia (which has recently enacted a scrap inspection system and new quality standards) was the No. 1 buyer of U.S. aluminum scrap, accepting 520,000 metric tons, or nearly 25 percent of outbound scrap.

The other major buyers of outbound U.S. aluminum scrap were India, 442,000 metric tons; South Korea, 284,000 metric tons; China (now including Hong Kong), 220,000 metric tons; Mexico, 167,000 metric tons; and Canada, 99,200 metric tons.

Ferrous scrap is the volume leader among scrap metals, a status upheld by the 17.9 million metric tons that flowed from the U.S. to overseas destinations last year. There is some crossover with aluminum in terms of leading buyers but also some different cast members.

In 2021, the leading overseas destinations for U.S. ferrous scrap were Turkey, 3.47 million metric tons; Mexico, 3.10 million metric tons; Malaysia, 1.45 million metric tons; Vietnam, 1.44 million metric tons; Taiwan, 1.42 million metric tons; and Bangladesh, 1.36 million metric tons.

Finally, high-value copper-bearing scrap in 2021 traveled many of the same routes. In the first 10 months of 2021, the most recent figures compiled by USGS, the largest buyers of U.S. copper-bearing scrap were China and Hong Kong, 216,700 metric tons; Malaysia, 134,210 metric tons; Canada, 97,600 metric tons; South Korea, 53,700 metric tons; and India, 41,880 metric tons.