Ferrous scrap consumption declining in 2023

Trade group BIR says even China, where steel output was up in the first half of the year, is melting less scrap, according to a report in Recycling Today.

Global steelmaking and ferrous scrap recycling figures for the first half of this year portrayed a tepid market when presented to attendees of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) Ferrous Division session in October in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Rolf Willeke, the Brussels-based BIR ferrous statistics advisor, cited figures provided by the World Steel Association (Worldsteel) and other global and national steel and recycling organisations.

In terms of ferrous scrap consumption, it is down in all major countries and regions year on year, according to the BIR.

China’s consumption of scrap was 2.9 per cent lower year on year in the first half of this year, at 116.2 million metric tons, though the country has remained the world’s largest user of ferrous scrap.

Falling even further in their consumption of scrap were steelmakers in the European Union, down by 9.6 per cent; large-scale scrap importer Turkey, with a sizable 16.4 per cent decrease; Japan, with a 4.3 per cent decline; and the United States, at minus-3.1 per cent for the year.

The drops in scrap consumption in the EU, US, Turkey and Japan were matched by drops in overall steel production as well.

In China in the first half of this year, however, steel production rose by 1.3 per cent, meaning its iron ore-dependent blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace sector has kept its output steady.

While the steel sector misfortunes of electric arc furnace (EAF) producer Turkey have weighed on the global ferrous scrap trading sector, better news is emanating from India.

India was the world’s second-largest ferrous scrap importer in the first half of this year, recording a strong year-on-year increase of 105.5 per cent to 5.49 million metric tons purchased from other nations.

The BIR Ferrous Division is now using the term “recycled steel” in place of ferrous scrap to resonate more effectively with the public and policymakers in highlighting the importance of our material for global steelmaking.

Also at the meeting, guest speaker Davide Braga of Italy-based recycling equipment Danieli Centro Recycling said scrap fed-EAF technology would double its share of global production by 2050 and also entail a significant increase in direct reduced iron (DRI) production.

Should the EAF forecast be accurate, an additional 300 million metric tons of scrap per year would be needed to feed those furnaces – an unlikely figure to meet, thus opening the door for more DRI.

Additional guest speaker Kedar Joshi of metals information services provider Davis Index said increased scrap demand may not come from the EAF sector alone. Joshi said integrated mills might have to increase scrap utilisation to meet investor and community demand for lower carbon emission scores.

Noting that entities such as the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Co. are involved in metals sector decarbonisation, Joshi said Davis Index CEO Sean Davidson had a message for BIR Ferrous Division delegates: “It’s time we drive this message to everyone we meet: Tell them ‘You want a greener planet? Just let us continue doing the job we’ve being doing for more than 100 years.”