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  • BIR World Mirror on Non-Ferrous Metals – Issue May 2024: LME spike teases out more volume - but recycled metal availability still tight

BIR World Mirror on Non-Ferrous Metals – Issue May 2024: LME spike teases out more volume - but recycled metal availability still tight

  • 13 May 2024

Entête non ferrous

A concise summary of the BIR World Mirror on Non-Ferrous Metals – Issue May 2024. Full version with detailed market reports available in the Members Only section of the BIR website.

The recent spike on the LME increased the flow of material into yards - but this upturn in volumes proved to be short-lived in many instances, according to reports submitted from around the globe to the BIR recycling organization’s latest World Mirror on Non-Ferrous Metals.

As the weeks have passed, it is noted from the UK, merchants have been reporting material volumes no higher than they were before the LME-triggered price increases. Domestic sectors such as manufacturing, construction and demolition are still not at the same levels as last year, it is added.

From the Benelux too, it is suggested that the additional flows were somewhat short-lived and that availability of recyclable units remains tight. As of March 31, Benelux recyclers are no longer allowed to pay cash for such units, prompting concerns that this could temporarily reroute material into neighbouring countries at a time of tight availability and slow generation. Also worthy of note is that, with the stronger markets, recyclers are preferring local outlets over longer-haul destinations.

High levels of competition for material are also reported from the Nordic Countries, while the market in Spain and Portugal is said to be driven by shortages.

Following a quarter of lower prices for copper scrap in India, the onset of summer has brought a shortage in the domestic market amid high demand from all sectors. Imports of copper scrap, especially good quality, have become viable although the well-documented problems in the Red Sea have delayed cargoes.

China’s copper scrap imports totalled 557,162 tonnes in the first quarter of 2024 for a year-on-year increase of 15.8%. Meanwhile, copper scrap generation in Japan has been low as copper-related industries have yet to recover.

In the USA, substantial tightening of recycled metal availability is a concern for both consumers and suppliers, especially with new aluminium mills on the horizon. The supply gap is likely to be made up with sortation technology improvements allowing for mill usage of shred that is going into secondary end markets, it is observed. 

Aluminium demand is said to have picked up in the UK, especially for mixed grades, with new technology or sorting/grading machinery to separate alloys. Whereas most merchants had been shearing alloys, this grade is now going to yards employing shredders with separation technology, it is noted.

The Mexican government’s decision in April to impose import tariffs of 35% on primary aluminium and of 20% on aluminium billet has sent shock waves through industry. Countries with a trade agreement with Mexico are exempt from these tariffs but these are not the leading suppliers of aluminium to Mexico. This move, which aluminium associations are trying to overturn, is expected to heighten some companies’ commitment to scrap as a hedge against trade tensions.

Meanwhile, business conditions have been improved in South Africa since the suspension of load shedding on March 26. 

In Eastern Europe, scrap suppliers in Poland are struggling to achieve sales that reflect the LME’s rapid upturn. Weak export sales, especially to Asian markets, have pushed Eastern European suppliers into looking to the EU for outlets for their material. Transportation remains a major problem for Ukraine, with queues of trucks still evident at the border.

Read all international market reports

With contributions from its members, BIR publishes periodical commodity reports under the label "BIR World Mirror". These detailed reports exist for Non-Ferrous MetalsFerrousStainless Steel / AlloysPaperPlastics and Latin America and provide BIR members with up-to-date information on the respective commodity or market segment.

The report on Non-Ferrous Metals appears once every two months, whereas Ferrous, Stainless Steel, Paper and Plastics are published quarterly. Latin America is covered twice per year.