According to trade data from the U.S. Census Bureau, year-to-date U.S. exports of the major nonferrous scrap metals (Cu, Al, Ni, Pb, and Zn) were up 12.4 percent through May to nearly 1.1 million metric tons.
In percentage terms, lead metal scrap exports have seen the largest increase (+20.3%), followed by exports of copper scrap (+13.1%) and aluminum scrap (+12.8%).
For both copper and aluminum scrap, mainland China has been the main driver of overseas growth. During Jan-May 2017, U.S. aluminum scrap exports (including UBCs and RSI) to China were up 13.7 percent to more than 322,000 metric tons. Other overseas aluminum scrap growth market this year includes Korea (+32%), India (+29%), Indonesia (+29%), and Mexico (+12.2%):
At the same time, U.S. copper and copper alloy scrap exports to mainland China increased 16 percent year-on-year through the first five months of 2017, while shipments to Hong Kong rose 60 percent and trade with Canada improved 45 percent. Numerous analysts have pointed to China’s substitution of copper scrap and copper concentrates in place of refined copper this year: