Total U.S. scrap exports – including all ferrous and nonferrous metals, recovered paper, plastics, rubber, glass, textiles, etc. – declined 5.5% year-on-year by volume in 2019 to 38.2 million metric tons, according to the latest trade data released by the Census Bureau last week.
In dollar terms, total U.S. scrap exports were similarly down 5% year-on-year to $19.2 billion in 2019, but the composition of the top export markets changed in several significant ways. For the first time since the year 2000, China was no longer the top export destination for U.S. scrap in dollar terms, having been replaced by Canada at $2.6 billion. In dollar terms, U.S. scrap exports to China were nearly cut in half last year, falling from $3.5 billion in 2018 to $1.8 billion in 2019. Also noteworthy, the largest net gain in export sales last year was to Malaysia, where exports increased by $374 million to $1.1 billion. In 2017, Malaysia wasn’t even in the top 10 U.S. scrap export destinations but became the 6th largest market last year, after Canada, China, India, South Korea, and the U.K. Meanwhile, slower manufacturing growth and scrap import demand in Mexico resulted in Mexico dropping from the 4th spot in 2018 to 10th position in 2019.