While China remains the major source of concern for the global nonferrous scrap industry heading into 2018, the year-to-date 2017 U.S. trade data indicate Chinese demand for copper and copper alloy scrap continued apace through October at least.
According to the Census Bureau, U.S. copper scrap exports to mainland China increased 7% year-on-year during Jan-Oct 2017 to nearly 580,000 metric tons while shipments to Hong Kong rose 32% to more than 82,000 metric tons. Here’s the year-to-date monthly trend in U.S. red metal shipments to China and Hong Kong combined as compared to recent years:
In addition to mainland China and Hong Kong, overseas growth market for U.S. copper scrap exporters in 2017 included Canada (+32%), South Korea (+3%), Japan (+44%), Pakistan (+25%), and Mexico (+40%), according to Census Bureau data. The biggest year-to-date volume increases by HTS code were for:
- 7404000030 – Copper waste and scrap, refined copper, nesoi (+42,000 mt to 160,000 mt)
- 7404000025 – No. 2 copper (+23,000 mt to 97,000 mt)
- 7404000015 – No. 1 copper, ex-Bare Bright (+7,000 mt to 129,000 mt), and
- 7404000061 – Brass waste and scrap, yellow, containing more than 0.3% lead (+6,000 mt to 24,000 mt).
And here’s the recent trend in U.S. copper and copper alloy scrap exports by major destination:
U.S. Copper and Copper Alloy Scrap Exports to Major Destinations (metric tons)
Exports of aluminum scrap (including UBCs and RSI) to mainland China have fared even better than copper this year according to the Census Bureau data, rising 16.3% year-on-year to nearly 670,000 metric tons through October. Other overseas growth markets for U.S. aluminum scrap this year include Korea, Mexico, India, Indonesia, and Germany.
In percentage terms, U.S. lead scrap exports saw the largest increase during the first 10 months of 2017 among the major base metals, rising 16% although still representing just a fraction of the volume of copper and aluminum scrap exports at 44,387 metric tons. Improved demand from the UAE, South Korea, and Ecuador drove the lead scrap shipments higher. Here’s how U.S. lead, zinc, nickel, and tin scrap exports performed through October 2017 according to the Census Bureau data: