The December ferrous scrap market resulted in higher pricing for the second consecutive month! Unfortunately, the December trade represents only the fourth time that ferrous scrap prices logged positive gains during 2019. To put things into perspective, even with two consecutive months of price gains to end 2019, AMM Chicago Shred is still down $88/ton year on year. To say it has been a difficult year for ferrous scrap processors would be an understatement, and I’m sure many scrap processors will join me in a resounding chorus of Auld Lang Syne to bid 2019 farewell!
And while it is good to have positive momentum heading into the New Year, optimism among recyclers is tempered by many challenges, including worker safety and retention, a decelerating manufacturing sector, multi-year low shredded nonferrous prices squeezing automobile shredder margins, rail service and fee challenges, and several regulatory issues too.
It is during difficult times like these, that engaging with ISRI to protect and further common interests is of critical importance.
Recycling is a people driven business; and, recruiting and retaining quality talent, requires that recyclers provide a safe work environment. With a Safety-First mentality, each Ferrous Division Board Meeting now starts with a Safety Spotlight, which details an OSHA incident or non-OSHA incident that occurred at a member’s facility and lessons implemented to prevent future occurrences. At the most recent board meeting in Portland a member reviewed a near miss incident involving a loaded open top trailer. When the rear door was opened, material fell out narrowly missing a driver that was not using a safety tether to keep a safe distance from the door. Other similar incidents happen every day in our industry – I encourage all members to share their incidents with ISRI, so that we may collectively improve the safety of our operations. Please also let Billy Johnson (ISRI Ferrous Division Liaison) or me know if you would like to present during a future Ferrous Division Safety Spotlight.
ISRI is working hard on-behalf of all ferrous scrap shippers to reform demurrage and accessorial fees and revoke the commodity exemption from Surface Transportation Board (STB) oversight enjoyed by railroads. Thanks to the time, money, and effort spent by ISRI staff and many members, progress is being made towards helping the STB better understand the rail needs and challenges of recyclers so that policy changes can be adopted. The fight is still far from over, but progress towards positive change is being made! If you are a rail shipper, please join us at the February meeting to hear the latest developments.
As I watched the recent unveiling of the Tesla electric pickup truck, I was reminded that electric vehicles are not only a growing segment of the auto industry, but also before long will become a significant source of the scrap automobiles processed by recyclers. It was stated during a United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works meeting that, between 2018 and 2030, over 11 million tons of spent lithium ion batteries will be discarded across the world! Unfortunately, lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles (and other battery powered equipment) pose significant safety and environmental challenges, not to mention the economics of recycling lithium ion batteries are currently negative. Realizing a potential crisis, ISRI recently organized an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Working Group to clearly define ISRI’s position on the recycling of lithium ion batteries and other hard to recycle products. Once completed these EPR position statements will allow ISRI members to engage with manufacturers and our elected officials to ensure that Design for RecyclingTM is incorporated into the manufacturing process for currently hard to recycle products, including electric vehicles. Any other outcome will not only be bad for our planet, but also our industry.
As I look ahead to 2020, despite the many challenges facing our industry, I remain convinced that there is nothing facing our industry that recyclers working together through ISRI will not be able to overcome. In fact, I believe we scrappies often do our best work when facing great challenges!
If I’m right, get ready to witness some amazing feats in 2020!
I hope to see each of you at the upcoming ISRI Board of Directors Meeting in Nashville, February 18-21.
Happy New Year!!
ISRI Ferrous Division Chair