U.S. Scrap Exports Up 13% in 2018 to $20.3 Billion

Despite a sharp decline in U.S. exports to China, total U.S. scrap exports increased 13 percent by value to $20.3 billion and were up 7 percent by volume to 40.6 million metric tons in 2018. By commodity, ferrous scrap exports had the largest volume gain (+1.9 million mt to 15.6 million mt) while plastic scrap exports saw the sharpest decline (-36 percent to 1.1 million mt).

Total U.S. Scrap Exports, 2017 vs. 2018 (million metric tons and $ billions)
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau/U.S. International Trade Commission
Export Chart

As China’s import restrictions kicked in, U.S. exports of all scrap to mainland China declined 38 percent by value to $3.5 billion in 2018, a decrease of nearly $2.2 billion as compared to 2017. Including Hong Kong (which is treated as a separate export destination), the volume of U.S. exports to China fell to their lowest level since 2002:

US Exports

Even with the sharp decline in Chinese demand, China remained the biggest market for U.S. scrap exports. The top 5 markets in dollar value for U.S. scrap were as follows:

  1. China – $3.5 billion (-38%)
  2. Canada – $2.3 billion (+6%)
  3. India – $1.5 billion (+63%)
  4. Mexico – $1.4 billion (23%)
  5. South Korea – $1.2 billion (+60%)

As U.S. scrap exporters developed new markets in response to China’s pullback, India became the largest growth market last year in terms of net gain in export sales by value. The top 5 overseas growth markets for U.S. scrap exporters last year were as follows:

  1. India: up $586 million to $1.5 billion
  2. Malaysia: up $550 million to $736 million
  3. Taiwan: up $498 million to $1.1 billion
  4. South Korea: up $465 million to $1.2 billion
  5. Germany: up $319 million to $1.2 billion

Other top growth markets in 2018 included the U.K., Mexico, Indonesia, Belgium, Japan, Vietnam, Egypt, Canada, Thailand, and Bangladesh.


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