Scrap and Waste Materials

SIC 5093

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry category includes establishments primarily engaged in assembling, breaking up, sorting, and distributing scrap and waste materials. The industry also includes auto wreckers engaged in dismantling automobiles for scrap. Those establishments engaged in dismantling cars for the purpose of selling secondhand parts are classified under SIC 5015: Motor Vehicle Parts--Used.

Industry Snapshot

In addition to collection, the scrap and waste materials industry operates the sorting and recycling services that help to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. To that end, it also processes for wholesale distribution a wide variety of materials including bags and bottles, fur cuttings and scraps, nonferrous metal wastes and scraps, and rubber scraps. The industry's primary output, however, has been wastepaper and ferrous scrap metals such as iron and steel. In 2008, U.S. metals were recycled at a rate of approximately 35 percent.

The United States generated more than 250 million tons of trash, or municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2008, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Eighty-three million tons of this was recycled, representing a 33 percent recycling rate, a figure that had been climbing steadily since 1960, when the recycling rate was just over 6 percent. In addition, almost 13 percent was composted, leaving a discarded MSW rate of about 54 percent.

Of the total MSW (before recycling), paper comprised 31 percent of waste; yard trimmings, 13.2 percent; food scraps, 12.7 percent; plastics, 12 percent; metals, 8.4 percent; rubber, leather, and textiles, 7.9 percent; wood, 6.6 percent; glass, 4.9 percent; and other, 3.3 percent.

There 8,093 establishments engaged in the scrap and waste materials industry in 2009. Combined they generated approximately $19.2 billion in sales. There were about 74,114 workers with an average of nine employees per establishment. States with the highest number of businesses in this industry were California with 986 establishments, Texas with 594, New York with 468, Pennsylvania with 447, and Ohio with 437.

Organization and Structure

Scrap Wastepaper.
Wastepaper processors use large balers to bundle compressed wastepaper--such as newsprint, cardboard, or office paper--for shipment to paper mills for recycling. Recycling efforts by the scrap industry increased substantially during the final decades of the twentieth century, recovering 45 percent--45 million tons--of all paper and paperboard used nationally in 1997. Recycled office paper alone increased to 48 percent, up from just 15 percent in 1990.

Export markets increased by 285 percent from the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, and prices for recycled paper products soared in 1995 but fell again in 1996. A subsequent no-growth forecast for the entire paper industry late in 1998 led producers to forestall plans to increase plant capacity for recycling of paper products as the 1990s drew to a close.

To help bolster the market, companies developed chemicals and techniques for improving the marketability of recycled paper products. Ponderosa Fibers of Baltimore, Maryland, for example, developed a method for removing fluorescence from office wastepaper, and Cytec Industries Inc. of West Paterson, New Jersey, introduced a chemical that reduced bleeding of ink in recycled paper products. A growing trend among producers in the late 1990s was to move aggressively toward lowering the chlorine content through substitution, with a goal of achieving elemental chlorine-free (ECF) pulp.

By 2008, 71 percent of office-type paper, or 4.3 million tons, was being recovered for recycling. Overall paper and paperboard was recycled at a rate of about 55.5 percent. About 364 establishments specialized in waste paper recycling in 2009 and generated revenues of $2.8 billion.

Scrap Iron and Steel.
Scrap iron and steel companies collect junked cars, steel from buildings, and scrap from metalworking industries, then process it for use by steel mills. Processors are required to remove and properly dispose of many hazardous wastes before shredding any metal scraps. Of particular concern is the disposal of shredder fluff--the waste left after processing metals--which often contains high levels of oils, PCBs, lead, and cadmium. At least 75 percent of shredder waste is recoverable. Ways to recycle this waste were studied by government and industry researchers alike.

In the mid-1990s, U.S. steelmakers used more than 70 million tons of scrap metal annually to produce new steel. Globally, the use of scrap metals reached 400 million tons. Demand leveled off in 1996, and prices for ferrous scrap metals dropped. A 1997 rebound in prices, offset by a monetary crisis in Asia, led to an industry slump at the close of the decade. The industry recycled 1.9 million tons of steel in 1998, or 72.1 percent of eligible steel--a decline of 8.9 percent from the 1997 recycling level of 81 percent. The decrease resulted from excessively low steel prices brought about by the economic crisis in Asia and by "steel dumping" (excessive cheap exports) by foreign nations. Analysts detected some improvement early in 2000 as Asian recovery progressed, and secondary producers fought to maintain an effective price differential between primary and secondary product.

In 2008, more than 7 million tons of metals, including aluminum, steel, and mixed metals, were recycled. There were approximately 1,628 establishments that specialized in the metal scrap and waste materials sector in 2009, generating a total of $4.0 billion in revenues.

Scrap Plastic.
The United States used more than 30 billion pounds of plastics annually in the 1990s, of which the recycling rate was nearly 20 percent. By the late 1990s, more than 15,500 U.S. communities--representing nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population--had access to some form of plastics recycling.

In response to the growth in plastics recycling, research and development departments sought ways to use various types of recycled plastics. One industry association listed more than 1,300 uses for recycled plastics, including products such as PCV pipes, lawn furniture, and auto dashboards. By 2009, there were 123 businesses that specifically handled scrap plastic. Together they generated $288 million in sales.

According to the EPA, there was a decrease in the early 2000s of municipal solid waste due to the slowed economy. The main industry segment affected was paper and paperboard, a segment which dropped 5.7 percent. During that same time period, according to Waste Age Magazine, the slowed economy led to consumers buying less, leading to lower consumption. The same effect occurred in the economic recession of the late 2000s. There were also less operational landfills located throughout the United States in the early 2000s, which had been an ongoing trend for the industry that wanted to operate larger facilities that were easily accessible.

Current Conditions

The decline in consumption during the economic downturn of the late 2000s contributed to a related decrease in scrap and waste, including in the metals industry, and the trend continued into 2010. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, exports of shredded scrap totaled 3.5 million tons in the first three quarters of 2010, as compared to 4.2 million tons for the entire year in 2009. In 2010 U.S. exports of shredded scrap to China and Malaysia declined significantly, whereas exports of shredded scrap to Malaysia increased substantially. Mexico and Thailand were other important growth markets for the export in 2010.

As of late 2010, industry exports were predicting a recovery in the scrap metal industry. According to a report by Global Industry Analysts, increased construction activity and rebounding auto sales would boost demand for ferrous metal scrap, with the global steel scrap market reaching 631.5 million tons by 2015.

Domestically, some categories were seeing increasing rates of recycling. According to the EPA, about 28 percent of glass containers were recycled, whereas 13 percent of plastic containers and packaging were recycled, mostly from soft drink, milk, and water bottles. About 15 percent of wood packaging, mostly consisting of wood pallets, was recovered. PET bottles and jars were recovered at a rate of 27 percent. Other products that saw increased recycling rates included unwanted mail, (41 percent), books (30 percent), and telephone directories (21 percent). Lead-acid batteries continued to be one of the most recovered products in the United States, with a 99 percent recycling rate,.

Industry Leaders

The largest company in the solid waste handling industry in 2010 was Waste Management Inc. of Houston, Texas, formerly USA Waste Services. Waste Management took its new name following a 1998 acquisition of the former Waste Management Corp. A Fortune 500 company with 43,400 employees, Waste Management reported $11.7 billion in sales in 2009. Waste Management maintains operations worldwide through Waste Management International.

Republic Services of Phoenix, Arizona, became the second largest waste handler in the United States when it purchased the former number-two firm, Allied Waste Industries Inc., in 2008. Republic had $8.1 billion in 2009 sales with 31,000 employees.

Research and Technology

In 2009 industry leader Waste Management joined with InEnTec to create S4 Energy Solutions and construct a plasma gasification plant at Waste Management's Arlington, Oregon, location. The plant was designed to recycle MSW into clean fuel and renewable energy. According to Environmental Leader, the company's Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) process changes organic into an ultra-clean synthesis gas (syngas). Then, "The clean syngas may be converted into transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, or industrial products like hydrogen and methanol, or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation." During the second stage of the process, remaining inorganic materials are changed into environmentally inert products. At the same location Waste Management operated a landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facility, which creates electricity from the methane gas that is generated as waste in a landfill decomposes. The LFGTE plant powered 5,000 homes in Seattle as of March 2010. Waste Management's goal was to supply power to 2 million homes by 2020 through its new facility. Waste Management used the same LFGTE technology at its Livermore, California, facility to run 300 of its 500 natural gas-powered waste and recycling collection trucks.

A process that automated the sorting of waste was designed by National Recovery Technologies Inc. of Nashville, Tennessee, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Industrial Technologies. Not only did this new technology allow for sorting according to material but also according to more specific characteristics such as color or particular type of plastic. With these new advances, up to 1,500 tons of municipal solid waste could be processed in one day. The EddySort system, manufactured by Wendt Corp. of New York, could recover virtually all nonferrous metal from automobile shredder fluff. Overall, automating the recycling process improved both the speed and efficiency of the recovery of hazardous wastes.

A new technology that was developed in the 2000s used near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) as a method for determining the paper content of plastic for recycling. NIR could be implemented more cheaply and faster than previous chemical processes. According to Nature Works LLC in 2009, "automated systems being used today in the recycling industry are capable of sorting PLA-based bioresin bottles from other plastic bottles with an accuracy approaching 100 percent." Other companies were using such technologies as ultraviolet, x-ray, laser, polarized light, fluorescent light, electrostatic, and melt point to sort waste into recyclable material.

Other research in the early 2010s included efforts by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Minnesota to create a gasification process that doubled the amount of fuel that can be converted from biomass such as switchgrass and other plants. reported that, previously, converting feedstocks to fuel through conventional gasification had not been an efficient process. According to an April 2010 report, "In traditional reactors, about half that carbon in the biomass gets converted into carbon dioxide rather than carbon monoxide, an inefficient and polluting process." However, with the special catalytic reactor created by the researchers, all of the carbon dioxide in the biomass can be made into biofuels. Researchers were hoping to have the technology ready for commercial application by 2012.

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News and information about Scrap and Waste Materials

Scrap and Waste Materials
Mena Report; August 31, 2015; 283 words
Contract Awarded for Scrap and waste materials Category: Scrap and waste materials Contract Period: 4-Mar-2015 to 1-Mar-2018 Contract Value: (AUD)$152300.00 Source...
US Patent Issued to Heritage Research Group on April 1 for "Sound Barriers Made from Scrap and Waste Materials" (California, Indiana Inventors)
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; April 1, 2014; 354 words
...135, issued on April 1, was assigned to Heritage Research Group (Indianapolis)."Sound barriers made from scrap and waste materials" was invented by Gregory Smith (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Anthony J. Kriech (Indianapolis), Daniel...
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US Fed News Service, Including US State News; January 4, 2013; 328 words
...Publication No. WO/2012/178144 was published on Dec. 27.Title of the invention: "SOUND BARRIERS MADE FROM SCRAP AND WASTE MATERIALS."Applicants: SMITH Gregory (US), KRIECH Anthony J. (US), ROBINSON Daniel (US) and KRIECH Matthew...
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Monthly Labor Review; April 1, 1990; 700+ words
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Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India); July 24, 2017; 577 words
...Titled,'Hakuna Matata', the event began with performances by the youth band, Dharavi Rockers, using scrap and waste materials to create music and traversed into soulful melodies sung by several young volunteers in reverence of'Dada Vaswani...
Scrap & Waste Materials
Mena Report; June 16, 2016; 288 words
Contract Awarded for Scrap & waste materials Category: Scrap and waste materials Contract Period: 23-May-2016 to 22-May-2019 Contract Value: (AUD)$126000.00 Source: https://www.tenders...
Providing of Destruction Services
Mena Report; December 8, 2014; 300 words
Contract Awarded for Providing of destruction services Category: Scrap and waste materials Contract Period: 6-Nov-2014 to 30-Jun-2015 Contract Value: (AUD)$10000.00 Source: https://www.tenders...
Provision of Paper and Media Destruction
Mena Report; February 14, 2015; 308 words
Contract Awarded for provision of paper and media destruction Category: Scrap and waste materials Contract Period: 1-Feb-2015 to 31-Mar-2015 Contract Value: (AUD)$20000.00 Source: https://www.tenders...

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