Looking forward, China’s implementation of reduced “carried waste” thresholds for nonferrous scrap starting March 1 remains squarely in focus despite numerous unanswered questions.
Among those questions are: what exactly constitutes carried waste; whether a 1 percent threshold can be effectively (and consistently) implemented; and whether import license cuts will be geared mainly toward mixed metal shipments or for all nonferrous scrap commodities. The difference between scrap and waste remains a critical distinction. As was brought up by a former ISRI Chair at the ISRI Trade Committee meeting in late January, a shipment of No. 2 copper that is 96 percent copper does not mean the remaining 4 percent is waste as it more than likely contains other valuable metals. ISRI continues to actively engage with government officials and industry leaders in China, the U.S., and our trading partners around the globe and will keep you updated on the latest developments from China.
Although U.S. copper and copper alloy scrap exports to mainland China did trail off in the 4th
quarter of 2017 (down 10 percent year-on-year), for 2017 as a whole shipments to China advanced nearly 4 percent. Overseas demand also improved in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, and Mexico last year, helping to boost U.S. copper scrap exports 6.2% in 2017 and above the 1 million ton mark for the first time since 2014 according to the latest Census Bureau trade data.
Unlike the slowdown in 4th quarter copper scrap exports to mainland China, U.S. exports of aluminum scrap to China surged 32 percent higher year-on-year (as compared to the 4th quarter of 2016) to more than 230,000 metric tons during Oct-Dec 2017. As a result, aluminum scrap shipments to China jumped 18.5% higher for 2017 overall, helping to lift total U.S. aluminum scrap exports (including UBC’s and RSI) 15.8% higher to nearly 1.57 million metric tons. Other growth markets for aluminum scrap last year included Korea, Mexico, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Germany according to the Census data: