Daily Archives: April 2, 2008

The Splendors of Scrap

Is it just me, or has the quantity and quality of sourcing and supply-chain related articles on Industry Week significantly increased in the first quarter of this year? I just stumbled upon another great article titled Table Scraps that noted that enterprising thieves have figured out that scrap means money, so why does the concept still elude some manufacturers?

The article quotes Mark Ripple of BBk Ltd. that notes that Most of the time, depending on what material you’re using, some plastics can be reground and reused, and some metal can be remelted or sent back to scrap metal suppliers … but a lot of suppliers I see are still just throwing away the bulk in a dumpster.” With some metals now commanding over $2,000 an ounce (like platinum), why would anyone waste even a gram (when it would be worth over $71)?

Supposedly, the scrap is disposed either because it’s not economical to re-use it, it’s not in a reusable form, or it’s just not part of the company’s culture. So what? Sell it to someone else who can reuse it or melt it down. If there are thieves willing to raid construction sites on what seems like an almost nightly basis, or gut unguarded vacant homes for metals – there’s obviously someone willing to pay a pretty two-penny for it. (By the way, a 211 year-old British two-penny coin in very good condition would net you over $30 on e-bay.)

The fact of the matter is that scrap sales can be worth tens of millions of dollars for a large manufacturer. The article notes that Shaw Industries, who made it part of their sustainable business model eight years ago, has recovered tens of millions of dollars just on waste-brokering activities. And on the off-chance the scrap you have really is waste, you could still create a waste-to-energy facility and, if it was based on vaporization, sell the slag that is created as a by-product. There’s just no excuse for waste.

This makes me wonder when government is going to catch on and enforce mandatory recycling of all recyclable materials. Over 90% of materials that is currently ending up in landfills is easily recyclable, but is not recycled because no government wants to be the one further contributing to today’s deficit by building a 9 or 10 digit recycling facility – even though they’d make money hand over fist reselling the materials to local, and global, manufacturers. Where I live, only about half of the plastic and metal containers that pass through an average household WITH recycling grades are allowed to be included in the weekly recycling pickup. Stupid. If the state or province where you live doesn’t have a facility, it should still collect them, compact them, and ship them to the neighboring state with an appropriate plant. Now I know the transportation would contribute to greenhouse emissions, but, unless you were shipping all the way across the continent, not nearly as much as the initial refinement and initial creation of some of these metals and plastics in the first place.

This also makes me wonder why we have junkyards for cars. I know the standard response is because North America doesn’t have an equivalent of the European ELV, but considering how much the metals in those wrecks are worth today, if I were a junkyard owner, I’d be hiring summer students with lots of aggression to work out (while they were waiting for the next sports season to begin) to break them down and then sell the scrap on the global market. But then again, I’m always trying to think logically and rationally and efficiently about problems …