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Ferrous metals

Extract BIR Annual Report 2022

Recyclers are delivering on decarbonization

In my report last year, I warned of “clouds on the horizon” as we entered 2022 in the form of proposed changes to the EU Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) that had “the potential to heavily restrict exports to many parts of the world”. Well, here we are 12 months later and our industry remains under the same Sword of Damocles.

On January 17 2023, the plenary vote in the European Parliament brought approval of changes to the
WSR that will place a heavy burden on EU exports
to industrialized and also developing countries through the need for intergovernmental agreements and inspections, audits and checks on facilities in third countries. Such a stringent control regime will mean that flows are likely to be severely limited. No distinction is made between lower-value recyclables and the ferrous sector’s high-value products which help steelmakers around the world achieve their decarbonization goals.

In the 13th edition of our hugely respected publication “World Steel Recycling in Figures”, Statistics Advisor
Rolf Willeke confirmed that this has now been given
the subtitle “A raw material for green steelmaking” in order to highlight the environmental importance of steel scrap use. Most recent data indicate that, each
and every year, steel scrap recycling prevents nearly 950 million tonnes of CO2 emissions that would have resulted from producing steel using virgin raw materials. Such achievements should never be forgotten or undersold.

At the same time, we should waste no opportunity
to stress that the scale of these achievements owes much to free access to global markets. As Mr Willeke has consistently stated, steel scrap is an ecologically unrivalled raw material used worldwide in steelworks and foundries, as well as an internationally-traded commodity subject to global market prices. As such, it should be subject to no more trading controls than any other raw material.

It seems entirely counter-intuitive that this threat to exports has arisen at a time when the global steel industry is under customer and consumer pressure to deliver “greener”, decarbonized steel, most obviously achieved through greater use of scrap. In effect, decarbonization and a healthy recycling industry go hand in hand.

Eric Niedziela, Vice President Climate Action at ArcelorMittal Europe, confirmed at our divisional
meeting last May that European steelmakers would be requiring substantially increased quantities of scrap
to boost their attempts to reduce the carbon footprint
of their operations. But as pointed out in Barcelona by BIR President Tom Bird, this should not be achieved at the expense of free trade in scrap which, if seriously compromised, could lead to lower recycling rates and
a drop-off in investment that would harm not only the interests of the steel sector but also of the environment. Cinzia Vezzosi, Immediate Past President of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation, warned the same meeting that stopping free trade out of Europe would leave almost 20 million tonnes of steel scrap with no obvious home. How can this make sense?

Europe does not have a monopoly on apparently counter-productive legislation: in late November last year, for example, South Africa issued a directive to regulate trade in ferrous scrap and semi-finished products in a bid to tackle metal theft. As BIR noted in a letter to the South African government, export restrictions have proved in the past to be ineffective in preventing metal theft from public infrastructure.

Our meeting in Dubai last October highlighted opportunities for scrap exporters to support the “greening” of steelmaking capacity, with Sanjoy Kumar Ghosh of BSRM Steels Ltd in Bangladesh pointing to his country’s growing need for scrap imports to support new infrastructure projects. His words provided further evidence that restrictions on EU scrap exports would not be a problem for Europe alone; it would have dramatic repercussions on markets globally.

Also in Dubai, Lee Allen of Fastmarkets lamented the loss of economic momentum during 2022, apparent in the reduced demand both for finished steel and our scrap. Energy availability/ price pressures forced many in industry to cut production while rising interest rates in many parts of the world also dampened economic and industrial activity. The impact on our own businesses has been clearly visible at the weighbridge, with significantly diminished yard infeed.

Despite a slight improvement in general market sentiment in late 2022, the early part of 2023 has brought no major alleviation of these pressures. Certainly, there seems little possibility of a significant relaxation in energy costs. By the time you read this report, I sincerely hope that I have been proved wrong and that we can resume the post-COVID recovery cut so abruptly short in 2022.

TSR Recycling GmbH & Co. KG (DEU
President Ferrous Division until October 2023

Shane Mellor

Mellor Metals Ltd (GBR)


Ferrous metals are mainly composed of iron and have magnetic properties. Steel, an iron alloy containing carbon, is by far the most recycled material in the world. Total crude steel production in 2018 reached 1.8 billion tonnes, with verified data for 81% of global steelmaking indicating an associated steel scrap use of just under 470 million tonnes. A further 70 million tonnes of scrap is consumed by the world’s iron and steel foundries each year. Global external steel scrap trading - including internal EU-28 trade - amounted to 105.4 million tonnes in 2018 for an increase of 2.6% over 2017, according to BIR statistics.
The most commonly recycled items are scrap from industrial processes, and also end-of-life products such as containers, vehicles, appliances, industrial machinery and construction materials.

Proportion of steel scrap used in domestic steel production (2018):

Republic of Korea

These figures show that, throughout the world, use of scrap metal has become an integral part of the modern steelmaking sector, improving the industry’s economic viability and reducing its environmental impact. Compared to ore extraction, the use of secondary ferrous metals significantly reduces CO2 emissions, energy/water consumption and air pollution. At the same time, the recycling of steel makes more efficient use of the Earth’s natural resources.


World Steel Recycling in Figures 2018-2022

World Steel Recycling in Figures 2018-2022

pdf English 2018-2022

pdf English 2017-2021

pdf English 2016-2020

pdf English 2015-2019

pdf English 2014-2018

pdf English 2013-2017

pdf English 2012-2016

pdf English 2011-2015

pdf English 2010-2014

pdf English 2009-2013

pdf English 2008-2012

pdf English 2007-2011

pdf English 2006-2010

pdf English 2005-2009





In general, metal recycling is a pyramid industry with many small companies at the bottom feeding scrap to large multi-nationals at the top. Steel recycling involves some, or all, of the following steps:

Sorting:  Magnets attract steel and so, through the use of magnetic belts, this metal can be easily separated from other recyclables such as paper in a recycling facility. Different kinds of steel do not need to be separated.

Shredding:  Shredders incorporate rotating magnetic drums to extract iron and steel from the mixture of metals and other materials.

Media separation: Further separation is achieved using electrical currents, high-pressure air flows and liquid flotation systems. 

Shearing: Hydraulic machinery capable of exerting enormous pressure is used to cut thick, heavy steel recovered from, for example, railways and ships. Other cutting techniques, such as the use of gas and plasma arc torches, are sometimes employed.

Baling: Iron and steel products are compacted into large blocks to facilitate handling and transportation.


Steel is ideal for recycling because it does not lose any of its inherent physical properties during the process, which can be repeated ad infinitum. Steel is 100% recyclable and, therefore, recycled steel can be used for the same applications as steel produced from virgin material. Products that are made of recycled steel include:
  • Construction materials for roads, railways, infrastructure & buildings

  • Electrical appliances

  • Cans & containers

  • Automobiles & other vehicles

  • Office supplies

  • Hardware such as bolts, nuts and screws


  • Recycling one tonne of steel saves 1100 kg of iron ore, 630 kg of coal and 55 kg of limestone.
  • Recycling one tonne of steel saves 642 kWh of energy, 1.8 barrels (287 litres) of oil and 2.3 cubic metres of landfill space.
  • Every tonne of steel made from recycled scrap saves enough energy to power four homes for a whole year.
  • Steel recycling uses 74% less energy, 90% less virgin material and 40% less water; it also produces 76% fewer water pollutants, 86% fewer air pollutants and 97% less mining waste.
  • A BIR-commissioned study conducted by Imperial College London has concluded that CO2 emissions are reduced by 58% when using ferrous scrap in steelmaking rather than virgin ore.

Divisional Board


Shane Mellor

Mellor Metals Ltd (GBR)

George Adams

SA Recycling (USA)

Mogens Bach Christensen

H.J.Hansen Genvindingsindustri A/S (DNK)

Tom Bird

Enicor (GBR)
General Delegate

Bernd Meyer


Denis Reuter

TSR Recycling GmbH & Co. KG (DEU)

Quintin Starkey

MRA – Metal Recyclers Association of South Africa (ZAF)

Ted Taya

Shinsei Scrap CO LTD (JPN)

Rolf Willeke

Statistics Advisor of the BIR Ferrous Division (BEL)

Shredder Committee


Alton Scott Newell III

Newell Recycling Equipment (USA)

George Adams

SA Recycling (USA)

Mogens Bach Christensen

H.J.Hansen Genvindingsindustri A/S (DNK)

Chris Bedell


Kevin Gershowitz

Gershow Recycling Corp (USA)

Thomas Papageorgiou


Donald Ward

Ward (GBR)