Skip to main content

World Steel Recycling in Figures


January-December 2020 update

Global crude steel production totalled 1.877 billion tonnes in 2020, up 0.1% from the previous year. According to worldsteel, crude steel production saw growth in Asia and the Middle East last year despite the slump in the spring as a result of the COVID pandemic.

Worldwide, oxygen furnace production increased by 2.2% to 1.373 billion tonnes whereas the global electric furnace total was down 5.7% to 493 million tonnes. There was a decrease in global blast furnace iron production (-0.6% to 1.313 billion tonnes) and also in DRI production (-7% to 85.7 million tonnes).

Data show a year-on-year crude steel production increase in China of 5.2% to 1.053 billion tonnes, lifting the country’s share of global production from 53.3% in 2019 to 56.5% in 2020. There was also growth in crude steel production in Turkey (+6.1% to 35.810 million tonnes) and in Russia (+1.7% to 73.199 million tonnes). Conversely, declines were registered by the EU-28 (-11.8% to 138.786 million tonnes), Japan (-16.2% to 83.195 million tonnes), the Republic of Korea (-6.1% to 67.121 million tonnes) and Canada (-14.8% to 11.0 million tonnes).

China’s steel scrap usage jumps 2%

According to our statistics, steel scrap consumption jumped 2% in China last year to 220.3 million tonnes. This compares to 215.9 million tonnes in 2019 and serves to underline China’s position as the world’s largest steel scrap user. The proportion of steel scrap used in the country’s steel production was slightly lower in 2020 at 20.7% - a result of higher oxygen furnace production.

Steel scrap usage also increased in Turkey last year (+7.8% to 30.077 million tonnes) while the country’s crude steel production climbed 6.1%. The proportion of steel scrap used in the country’s crude steel production increased to 84.1% in 2020.

Conversely, there were declines in steel scrap consumption in the EU-28, the USA, Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The EU-28 recorded a steel scrap consumption drop of 10.3% to 77.539 million tonnes while the region’s crude steel production also fell (-11.8%). The proportion of steel scrap used in EU crude steel production increased to 55.7% in 2020.

The steel scrap consumption decline in the USA last year was 17.6% to 50.0 million tonnes while the country’s crude steel production decreased by 17.2% to 72.7 million tonnes. The proportion of steel scrap used in US steel production dropped to 68.8%.

Our 2020 figures reveal a small decrease in Russia’s steel scrap usage last year (-0.8% to 29.929 million tonnes) whereas the country’s crude steel production increased by 1.7%. The proportion of steel scrap used in Russia’s crude steel production decreased to 41.9% in 2020.

Lower steel scrap consumption was also recorded by Japan in 2020 (-13.4% to 29.179 million tonnes) while its crude steel production tumbled 16.2%. Overall, the proportion of steel scrap used in Japan’s crude steel production increased to 35.1% in 2020.

For the Republic of Korea, 2020 figures reveal a decline in steel scrap usage (-9.7% to 25.831 million tonnes) while its steel production dropped 6%. The proportion of steel scrap used in the Republic of Korea’s crude steel production decreased to 38.5% last year.

Our statistics reflect the negative influence of the Coronavirus pandemic on global steel scrap use and crude steel output in 2020.

Turkey increases overseas steel scrap purchases by 19%

Last year, brought a 19% year-on-year increase in Turkey’s overseas steel scrap purchases to 22.435 million tonnes. The data for 2020 confirm that Turkey remained the world’s foremost steel scrap importer, with its main suppliers being the USA (+13.8% to 4.368 million tonnes), the Netherlands (+21.4% to 3.155 million tonnes), Russia (+29.4% to 2.350 million tonnes) and the UK (+5.2% to 2.304 million tonnes).

India was the world’s second-largest steel scrap importer in 2020 despite an overall year-on-year decline of 23.7% to 5.383 million tonnes. The country’s main suppliers were the United Arab Emirates (-28% to 0.830 million tonnes), the USA (-17.1% to 0.637 million tonnes) and the UK (-37.4% to 0.544 million tonnes).

New to the position of the world’s third-largest steel scrap importer was the USA (+5.7% to 4.512 million tonnes). The country’s main suppliers were Canada (+6.1% to 3.178 million tonnes), Mexico (-19.3% to 0.498 million tonnes) and the Netherlands (+53.1% to 0.271 million tonnes).

Also on the increase in 2020 were steel scrap imports into Taiwan (+2.6% to 3.616 million tonnes) and Mexico (+43.4% to 2.126 million tonnes). In contrast, import declines were recorded by the Republic of Korea (-32.3% to 4.398 million tonnes), the EU-28 (-2.1% to 2.866 million tonnes) and Indonesia (-45.7% to 1.420 million tonnes).

Figures for Pakistan, Malaysia and Belarus were not available at the time of our editorial deadline.

EU-28 overseas steel scrap shipments climb by 4%

Global external steel scrap trading - including internal EU-28 trade - amounted to 99.3 million tonnes last year (-1.3% compared to 2019).

The EU-28 remained the world’s leading steel scrap exporter in growing its outbound shipments in 2020 by 4% to 22.627 million tonnes, the main buyer being Turkey on 14.055 million tonnes (+17.5% year on year). The EU-28 also increased its overseas shipments to Pakistan (+18.3% to 1.943 million tonnes), the USA (+58.9% to 0.839 million tonnes) and Switzerland (+24.2% to 0.482 million tonnes). Conversely, a drop was recorded in EU-28 deliveries to Egypt (-3.8% to 1.942 million tonnes), India (-33% to 1.265 million tonnes) and Norway (-5.8% to 0.323 million tonnes). The largest EU-28 steel scrap exporter was the UK with total shipments in 2020 of 5.661 million tonnes (-14.4% compared to the previous year).

The EU-28’s internal steel scrap exports totalled 27.054 million tonnes (-5.5% compared to 2019).

Last year brought a decrease in US overseas steel scrap shipments of 4.6% to 16.874 million tonnes; among the leading buyers to extend their purchases from the USA were main customer Turkey (+3% to 4.032 million tonnes), Mexico (+42.5% to 2.075 million tonnes), Malaysia (+75.8% to 1.579 million tonnes) and Bangladesh (+32.7% to 1.344 million tonnes). In contrast, decreases in US scrap deliveries were recorded by Taiwan (-15% to 1.596 million tonnes), Vietnam (-22.1% to 0.990 million tonnes) and Canada (-47.6% to 0.906 million tonnes).

Also in 2020, increases were registered in steel scrap exports from Japan (+22.6% to 9.387 million tonnes), Russia (+15.3% to 4.728 million tonnes), Canada (+3.2% to 4.512 million tonnes) and Brazil (+6.2% to 0.732 million tonnes) whereas declines in overseas shipments were posted by Australia (-10% to 2.093 million tonnes), Hong Kong (-36.8% to 0.607 million tonnes), Singapore (-33.1% to 0.506 million tonnes) and South Africa (-40% to 0.314 million tonnes).

Last but not least, I would like to extend my special thanks to Daniela Entzian, the BIR Ferrous Division’s Deputy Statistics Advisor, for her excellent co-operation.