- While U.S. scrap metal was a hot seller in China a few years ago, used in manufacturing, the materials' costs have plummeted. This has been a global trend, driven by China's slowed economy, which brings down industrial activity and demand for raw materials.
- A devalued U.S. dollar and a supply that has outpaced demand worldwide have further hurt the industry, said Jeff Isroff, CEO of United Milwaukee Scrap, to THOnline . Metal that sold for $220 a ton in January, for example, now sells for about $80. Prices for aluminum, copper, nickel and other materials have also dropped. And steel mills paid about $165 a ton for steel scrap in October, compared to about $330 in January 2015.
- Industry experts project the decline in metal’s value to continue, with improvements in 2017.
As with other recyclable materials, the scrap metal market carries unpredictability, especially as its worth depends on a global market. In August, it was reported that scrap metal exports from the U.S. dropped 4.7% by volume in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014, according to the Journal of Commerce.
Recycler Ron Loos told THOnline that he may need to hire a contractor to haul his scrap metal. A bin that he recently sold for $600 now gets him $112.
“It’s a cyclical market. No one can really see where the bottom’s at," said David Cauble, vice president of Cimco Recycling in Milwaukee. Though recyclers are hopeful that the industry will turn around.
"This is a difficult time. You have to be smart and manage your money … and realistically, if you are just starting to do that today, it’s too late," said Cauble, who has learned to weather the downturns that come periodically.