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BIR Copenhagen 2024 - Ferrous Division Statistics: 15th edition of "World Steel Recycling in Figures"

  • 28 May 2024

At the BIR Ferrous Division meeting today in Copenhagen, Divisional President Shane Mellor announced the release of the 15th edition of “World Steel Recycling in Figures” covering the five-year period from 2019 to 2023.

In reviewing some of the publication’s key findings, divisional Statistics Advisor Rolf Willeke noted that the latest edition of this well-established and popular report reveals a very small increase in world crude steel output in 2023 as well as a drop in global recycled steel use but positive developments in recycled steel exports.

The following is Rolf Willeke’s summary of the main news and findings contained in the 15th edition of “World Steel Recycling in Figures”, which includes a special overview of the three leading recycled steel importer countries and flow charts for the eight main recycled steel exporters. Altogether, the publication incorporates a total of 60 graphs and tables.

Global crude steel production increases by 0.1%

Global crude steel production totalled 1.892 billion tonnes last year for a small increase of 0.1% over 2022, according to worldsteel. There was higher crude steel production in Asia, the CIS, the Middle East and Africa whereas decreases were registered by the EU-27, Other Europe and both North and South America, as well as Oceania.

In more detail, the year-on-year decreases in crude steel production included the following: EU-27 (-7.4% to 126.4 million tonnes); Other Europe (-4.4% to 43.6 million tonnes); North America (-1.3% to 110.2 million tonnes); and South America (-5.5% to 41.6 million tonnes). As for production increases, these included: Asia (+1.6% to 1.395 billion tonnes); Africa (+ 5.1% to 24.2 million tonnes); the Middle East (+0.6% to 54.5 million tonnes); and the CIS (+4.9% to 90.3 million tonnes).

BIR’s use of the term “recycled steel”

As explained previously, the BIR Ferrous Division is now using the term “recycled steel” rather than “steel scrap” in order to resonate more effectively with the public when highlighting the importance of our material for global steelmaking.

From our own calculations and those of worldsteel, it can be concluded that some 630 million tonnes of recycled steel are used each year in global steel production, thereby preventing almost 950 million tonnes of CO2 emissions while also saving energy and conserving natural resources. The term “recycled steel” also reinforces the importance of our material for “green” steelmaking.

Big overall drop in recycled steel usage

Recycled steel usage in our key countries and regions was 12% lower last year at 411.281 million tonnes, contrasting with a small increase of 0.2% in their total crude steel production to 1.555 billion tonnes. In all major countries and regions with the exception of the USA and India, recycled steel consumption headed lower in 2023.

It is important to note that the recycled steel usage figure in our stastistics represents verified data for 82.2% of global steelmaking in 2023.

China’s crude steel production was unchanged last year at 1,019.1 million tonnes. Meanwhile, the country’s recycled steel usage edged 0.8% lower year on year to 213.68 million tonnes, although it retained its position as the world’s largest user.

Lower percentage declines in recycled steel usage compared to crude steel production were registered in 2023 by the EU-27 (-5.7% to 74.846 million tonnes as against the aforementioned -7.4% for steel production to 126.4 million tonnes) and Turkey (-3.9% to 29.090 million tonnes versus -4% for steel production to 33.7 million tonnes).

Conversely, a higher percentage decrease in recycled steel usage was recorded by Japan (-2.9% to 31.823 million tonnes) as compared to the -2.5% to 87 million tonnes for crude steel production. Also in 2023, recycled steel usage fell 0.6% in South Korea to 26.122 million tonnes and yet the country’s crude steel production climbed 1.3% to 66.7 million tonnes.

The percentage increase in recycled steel usage in the USA last year (+0.4% to 56.8 million tonnes) was lower than that for crude steel production (+1.1% to 81.4 million tonnes).

For the first time in the 15 years of this publication, it has been possible to obtain recycled steel usage figures for India. These show a sharp usage increase in 2023 (+11.5% to 29 million tonnes), but the upturn in the country’s crude steel production was even steeper at 12.2% to 140.7 million tonnes.

For 2023, the share of recycled steel usage in crude steel production was 20.0% for India, 21% for China, 59.2% for the EU-27. 69.8% for the USA. 36.6% for Japan and 39.2% for South Korea. Worthy of particular note was recycled steel`s 86.3% share of crude steel production in Turkey.

Use of recycled steel in iron and steel foundries

Our calculation model for global recycled steel use in iron and steel foundries covers the period from 2015 to 2021. It has not been possible to calculate new recycled steel usage figures. Our table from last year showed annual usage of recycled steel in foundries worldwide to be between 67 and 74 million tonnes.

Turkey’s overseas recycled steel purchases fall 10.1%

Last year brought a 10.1% drop in Turkey’s overseas recycled steel purchases to 18.775 million tonnes, although the country remained the world’s foremost recycled steel importer. Its main suppliers were the USA (+13.7% year on year to 4.496 million tonnes), the Netherlands (unchanged at 2.165 million tonnes) and Belgium (+1.9% to 1.509 million tonnes).

India was the world`s second-largest recycled steel importer in 2023 (+40.4% to 11.760

million tonnes), with its main suppliers being Europe (+77.3% to 3.9 million tonnes) and

North America (+56.3% to 2.5 million tonnes).

And for the first time, Vietnam occupied third place in the recycled steel importer league table with an increase of 19.6% last year to 5.143 million tonnes; its main suppliers were Japan (+41.1% to 1.881 million tonnes) and the USA (+27.7% to 1.225 million tonnes).

Higher recycled steel imports were recorded last year by the USA (+8% to 5.097 million tonnes), Taiwan (+17.9% to 3.407 million tonnes) and Egypt (+1206% to 1.945 million tonnes) whereas import declines were posted by the EU-27 (-0.7% to 3.874 million tonnes), South Korea (-19.1% to 3.794 million tonnes), Mexico (-6.1% to 2.761 million tonnes) and Canada (-26.1% to 0.801 million tonnes).

EU-27 still the world’s top recycled steel exporter 

The EU-27 maintained its position as the world’s leading recycled steel exporter in 2023 with a 9.2% year-on-year increase to 19.219 million tonnes; the main buyer was Turkey (+1.8% to 10.744 million tonnes) while the EU-27’s largest exporter was the Netherlands (+18.2% to 4.645 million tonnes). In 2023, the EU-27’s internal recycled steel exports totalled 23.348 million tonnes for a year-on-year drop of 11.7%.

Overseas shipments of recycled steel also increased last year out of India (+65.9% to 2.278 million tonnes), Egypt (+26.1% to 1.762 million tonnes) and Pakistan (+4.5% to 0.808 million tonnes).

Despite a decline in recycled steel shipments from the USA last year (-6.9% to 16.264 million tonnes), it remained the world’s second-largest recycled steel exporter; the main buyer was Turkey (+20.9 % to 4.068 million tonnes). By contrast, there was a decline

in recycled steel shipments to Mexico (-7.7% to 3.226 million tonnes), India (-11.1% to 1.696 million tonnes) and Bangladesh (-9.3% to 1.445 million tonnes).

The 2023 figures also show recycled steel export increases from Japan (+9.8% to 6.927 million tonnes), Canada (+2.4% to 4.770 million tonnes), Australia (+13.5% to 2.120 million tonnes), Brazil (+188.3% to 1.064 million tonnes) and Hong Kong (+11.6% to 1.042 million tonnes).

Most of the world’s leading exporters are major net recycled steel exporters. Last year´s

export surpluses included, for example, 15.3 million tonnes for the EU-27 and 10.2 million tonnes for the USA.

It can also be noted from the publication that US and EU-27 export prices followed a largely parallel course in 2023.

Over the past 15 years, “World Steel Recycling in Figures” has quantified worldwide use of recycled steel as a raw material used in steelworks and foundries, while also underscoring the role of our recycled steel as an ecological raw material and an internationally-traded commodity subject to world market prices.

In Copenhagen, Mr Willeke extended his deep thanks for the excellent co-operation with BIR Ferrous Division President Shane Mellor and his board, as well as with Elisabeth Christ and her team from the BIR Secretariat and with all those supporting the “World Steel Recycling in Figures” publication.