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Non-Ferrous metals

Extract BIR Annual Report 2023

A legacy of which to be proud

Our sector endured a rough ride in 2023, impacted by everything from elevated energy prices to inflationary pressures and from large-scale fraud at Aurubis to the US banking crisis. Some of last year’s all-too-familiar headwinds included hurdles to the free movement of our crucial raw materials, with many governments introducing measures designed to impair or completely prevent established flows between nations. 

The increase in trading obstacles during 2023 coincided with BIR’s celebration of its 75th anniversary, providing a timely reminder of why our world organization first came into existence and of how the lessons of history so often go unheeded. Immediately after the Second World War, many countries decided to continue with bans on exports of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap, enabling local mills to dictate purchase prices and hampering the wider development of recycling potential through international trade. Recycling industry leaders of the day examined the options for repairing this trading void and BIR duly took shape. 

The longevity of our organization is a reflection of how it has developed to meet the changing needs of the industry and of its continuing – even growing – relevance. Nothing makes that enduring relevance plainer than the 23% growth in membership numbers during 2022, drawn from almost 70 countries.

BIR has compiled a huge body of work over its seven and a half decades but its mission remains just as vital today as it was back in the late 1940s. Our world organization marked its noteworthy anniversary with the special publication “The Story of BIR: 1948-2023” in which it was noted that “the globalization of previous decades has turned full circle into widespread protectionism”. Despite wider understanding of the need for a healthy recycling industry, its ability to realise its full environmentally-positive potential was still being “compromised by trading restrictions”, it added.

It is essential that governments reach a broader, collective view to facilitate not only the energy transition but also the continued supply of the basic manufactured products we all need in our daily lives. Given the critical importance of our raw materials to manufacturing sectors globally, BIR will continue to play a vital role in educating and in advocating for trade barriers to be removed. 

In my first contribution to BIR’s Annual Report as President of the Non-Ferrous Metals Division, I want to put on record my immense pride in what we do as an industry and as a world organization. As I said at our Convention in Abu Dhabi last October, we are the traders, processors, consumers and, I should add, innovators whose expertise, effort and resilience have been making the world a better place for generations through conservation of resources and huge reductions in carbon emissions.

Over the years, guest presentations at BIR Conventions have also underlined the crucial role played by recycling while also providing valuable information to help us understand trends and plan more effectively. In Amsterdam, for example, Jianbin Meng of the International Lead and Zinc Study Group/International Nickel Study Group underlined the huge impact of recycling on meeting global lead and zinc demand while Jean-Marc Moulin of Hydro Extrusions explained how recycling was at the core of many of the EU’s sustainability initiatives. And in Abu Dhabi, Deepesh Goyal of Fujairah Gold in the UAE confirmed how primary producers’ attitudes to secondary metals have shifted over recent years – from avoidance in many instances to being seen as the “low-hanging fruit” towards achieving carbon footprint reduction targets. ISRI’s chief economist Joe Pickard then gave us all an injection of optimism by stating that, despite some short-term challenges, medium- to longer-term prospects for our industry were “incredibly bright”.

I would like to thank our divisional board for its sterling work in putting together attractive Convention programmes and delivering informative reports for our regular Mirror publication. And a special mention should go, of course, to my predecessor Dhawal Shah for his inspirational tenure as President of our Division. 

Looking to the future as any organization should, the board will be assessing ways of enhancing the BIR World Mirror and of underlining our sector’s vital work through the provision of information and key data, to which end we have already commenced an update of our study on non-ferrous material flows.

“We are the traders, processors, consumers and innovators whose expertise, effort and resilience have been making the world a better place for generations.”


Hayes Metals (NZL)


The most commonly used non-ferrous metals are aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, titanium, cobalt, chromium and precious metals. Millions of tonnes of non-ferrous scrap are recovered annually and used by smelters, refiners, ingot makers, foundries and other manufacturers. Secondary materials are essential to the industry’s survival because even new metals often require the combined use of recycled materials.

According to several estimates, the recycled non-ferrous metals market as a whole was worth more than US$ 90 billion in 2018.

New metals made using recycled material


Aluminium, which is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, is one of the most recycled materials. Recovering aluminium for recycling is not only economically viable, but energy efficient and ecologically sound.

Owing to the limited availability of non-ferrous metals, the unrestricted flow of scrap from country to country according to industrial and consumer demand is crucial. BIR has consistently campaigned for the free movement of secondary raw materials to avoid shortages in certain geographical areas and surpluses in others. Import barriers could limit the supply to the manufacturing industry in some countries.

BIR’s major study entitled “Review of Global Non-Ferrous Scrap Flows” focuses on copper and aluminium. Owing to the industrial importance of both metals, there are very few countries in the world which do not trade in aluminium scrap or in copper/copper alloy scrap. The research reveals that scrap usage for copper - both for secondary refined copper production and direct use of scrap - increased worldwide by 41% from 5.9 million tonnes in 2000 to 8.3 million tonnes in 2015 (worth around US$ 46 billion at that time). Production of aluminium from scrap increased by 86% from 8.4 million tonnes in 2000 to 15.6 million tonnes in 2015 (worth around US$ 26 billion at that time).


Global Non-Ferrous Scrap Flows 2000-2015

Global Non-Ferrous Scrap Flows 2000-2015

pdf English 2000-2011

pdf English 2000-2015





The metal recycling industry has an efficient structure with numerous small companies purchasing scrap material and feeding this to highly-effective larger international businesses.

Non-ferrous metal recycling involves some, or all, of the following steps:

Sorting and dismantling: In order to be recycled appropriately, different types of non-ferrous metals need to be separated from each other, as well as from other recyclables such as paper and plastic.

Baling: Non-ferrous materials are compacted into large blocks to facilitate handling and transportation

Shearing: Hydraulic machinery capable of exerting enormous pressure is used to cut metals into manageable sizes

Shredding: Shredders incorporate rotating magnetic drums to separate non-ferrous from ferrous metals.

Further separation: This is achieved using electrical currents, high-pressure air flows and liquid flotation/media separation systems. More processing may be needed.

Melting: The recovered materials are melted down in a furnace, poured into casters and shaped into ingots. These ingots are either used in the foundry industry or they can be transformed into flat sheets and other wrought products such as tubing, which are then used to manufacture new products.




Aluminium has enormous recycling potential and is often reused for the same application for which it was originally manufactured. Its strength, flexibility and light weight make it ideal for:

  • Building & construction: Window frames, building structures, roofs, etc.
  • Transportation: Aluminium is used in aircraft, trains, boats, cars and trucks, as well as in smaller vehicles such as bicycles, motorbikes and other mobility devices such as wheelchairs.
  • Packaging: Aluminium is used mostly in the form of cans and foil.
  • Electricity: Since 1945, aluminium has replaced copper in high-voltage transmission lines.
  • Cooking and tableware.


  • One tonne of recycled aluminium saves up to 8 tonnes of bauxite, 14,000 kWh of energy, 40 barrels (6300 litres) of oil and 7.6 cubic metres of landfill space.
  • Recycling aluminium uses up to 95% less energy than producing aluminium using virgin raw materials.
  • Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to power a 100-watt bulb for almost four hours.
  • The aluminium drinks can is the world’s most recycled container, with recycling rates approaching 100% in some countries.



After silver, copper has the best electrical conductivity of all the elements. It is also a very good thermal conductor and is readily alloyed with other metals like lead, tin and zinc for foundry applications to produce, among other goods, products for the transmission of water such as valves.

Other common applications for recovered copper include:

  • Electrical applications: Wires, circuits, switches and electromagnets.
  • Piping: Plumbing fittings and also refrigeration, air-conditioning and water supply systems.
  • Roofing and insulation.
  • Household items: cookware, doorknobs and cutlery.

Recycling facts

  • Copper’s recycling value is so high that premium-grade scrap holds at least 95% of the value of the primary metal from newly-mined ore.
  • Recycling copper saves up to 85% of the energy used in primary production.
  • By using copper scrap instead of adopting the primary route, CO2 emissions are reduced by around 65%.



The vast majority of recycled lead is used in batteries. Other applications include:

  • Roofing.
  • As a barrier to radiation in, for example, hospitals, dentists’ surgeries, laboratories and nuclear installations.

Recycling facts

  • 50% of the lead produced and used each year throughout the world has been used before in other products.
  • 80% of modern lead usage is in the production of batteries - of which more than 99% are recycled, according to the International Lead Association.
  • Using secondary lead instead of ore reduces CO2 emissions by 99%.



Zinc is present in everyday life in the form of coins. However, it also has other important uses:

  • Galvanization: Zinc is commonly applied as a coating to protect iron and steel from corrosion.
  • Batteries: As an anode component material.
  • Brass: Created by alloying zinc and copper.

Recycling facts

  • 60% of total zinc production is still in use while the global end-of-life recycling rate for zinc is around 45%, according to the International Zinc Association.
  • Secondary zinc production uses 76% less energy than primary.
  • Old zinc scrap consists primarily of die-cast parts, brass objects, end-of-life vehicles, household appliances, old air-conditioning ducts, obsolete highway barriers and street lighting.



Apart from precious metals, tin is one of the most expensive non-ferrous metals. Hence, recycling from secondary materials is very important. Its varied applications include:

  • Cans: Used to make some cans, tinplate is obtained by covering steel sheet with a thin layer of tin.
  • Car production: Tin increases the resistance of the motor block, piston rings and clutch plates.
  • Springs of any kind become tougher through the addition of tin.

Recycling facts

  • Primary production of tin requires 99% more energy than secondary production.
  • Refined tin use in 2018 was 372,000 tonnes, according to an estimate from the International Tin Association. Solder accounted for almost half the total, with other uses including chemicals, tinplate, lead-acid batteries and copper alloys. The use of recycled tin as a proportion of total tin use was calculated to be around 32%.

Divisional Board


Paul Coyte

Hayes Metals (NZL)

Murat Bayram

EMR - European Metal Recycling Ltd (GBR)

Susie Burrage

BIR President Recycled Products Ltd (GBR)

Leopoldo Clemente

LCD Trading S.R.L (ITA)

Rick Dobkin

Shapiro Metals (USA)

Shen Dong

OmniSource Corporation (USA)

Elinor Feuer


Alejandro Jaramillo

Glorem SC (MEX)

Sidney Lazarus

Non-Ferrous Metal Works (ZAF) (Pty) Ltd

Aamir Malik

A.B.M. Corporation (PAK)

Jose-Martin Neumann

TSR Metals GmbH & Co. KG (DEU)

Sébastien Perron

Wiedland-Werke AG (DEU)

Dhawal Shah

Metco Ventures LLP (IND)

Rami Shahrour

Sharmetal Trading CO. S.A.R.L., (LBN)

Jurgen Van Gorp

Aurubis AG (BEL)


American Iron & Metal LP (CAN)
General Delegate

Natallia Zholud

TRM Group (POL)