In 2023, copper started strong, hitting a $4.35/lb. high. in January. This was followed by a general
downtrend through the rest of the year, with copper hitting a low of $3.50/lb. in October. Copper
finished out 2023 strong, and we are now seeing some positive momentum in the red metal into 2024.

Why did copper face downward pressures last year?

Weak Prompt Demand

Despite some improvement in industrial output and retail sales, the demand for copper has been
impacted by the weakening Chinese property market. China’s real estate industry accounts for almost
one-third of the country’s copper consumption, which is mainly used in constructing homes. The latest
economic indicators from China, the world’s second-largest economy and top consumer of copper and
other non-ferrous scrap, suggest that deflationary pressures are present. Consumer prices in China
experienced the most significant drop in three years in November, down -.05% y/y vs. -0.2% in Oct. and
down -0.5% m/m vs -0.1% in Oct. China’s worst CPI print in three years raised concerns about the effects
of weak domestic demand on the country’s economic recovery. It is worth noting that China contributes 18% of global GDP.

Weakened Supply in Chile

There has been a decline in the supply of copper due to mining project delays and lower production in
Chile in 2023. Chile is recognized as the leading producer of copper worldwide, with major companies
such as Codelco, BHP, Anglo-American, Glencore, and Antofagasta operating there. Codelco has been
facing operational challenges and high levels of debt, resulting in delays in critical projects that would
have extended the lifespan of their mines. Production at Codelco in 2023 is expected to reach 1.315
million metric tons, which is at the lower end of the estimated range. The company has predicted that
production will begin to recover in 2024 after last year’s output reached a 25-year low.

Increasing Inventories

The amount of copper stored at exchange warehouses worldwide has steadily increased since mid-July
2023. As of October 31st, 2023, copper inventories had reached 175k tons, marking a 61.5% increase
since September. This increase follows a 50% rise in August and is believed to be a result of the global
manufacturing slowdown and recession fears affecting commodity prices.

Hawkish Signals from the Federal Reserve and Weak Manufacturing Data Through Q3 of 2023

In September, the manufacturing sector in Asia experienced a downturn, and US factory activity
contracted. However, the US job market remained robust, with an unexpected increase in job openings.
The rise in interest rates put pressure on traders and capital-intensive manufacturing businesses, leading
to a trend of minimizing financing costs by depleting stockpiles or selling off metal supplies in the spot
market. As a result, the copper futures curve shifted to a state of contango. Futures contracts trade at a
premium when market participants expect prices for future contracts to be higher than the current spot

Strength of the US Dollar

Q3 erased gains made by copper early in the year. Declining copper prices were partially attributable to
the appreciation of the US dollar, which reached its highest point of $107.348 in October. A strong dollar
made copper priced in the greenback more expensive for foreign currency holders, particularly in China.

Mining Output Decreases

U.S. copper mine production decreased in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.
This was mostly attributed to three companies – Freeport-McMoRan Inc., KGHM Polksa Miedź S.A.
Group, and Rio Tinto Group. Production decline was influenced by unplanned maintenance, lower ore
grades, mining rates, record snowfall, and equipment failures. By July 2023, US mine production for the
year had reached an estimated 640,000 tons, indicating a 12% decline from the previous year.

Political unrest in Peru and Panama

Geopolitical factors have heavily influenced the global copper supply shortage. Peru, the world’s second largest producer of copper, has been dealing with political unrest, including daily rioting, since late 2022.

This turmoil has led to disruptions in supply chains. As a result of protests and roadblocks, major mines,
such as the Chinese owned MMG Las Bamba and Glencore’s Antapaccay, which collectively contribute to
2.5% of the global copper output, have had to limit their production or shut down until March of 2023.
Panama’s recent actions to potentially revoke a contract for one of the world’s biggest copper mines
through a referendum and proposed law have caused concern among investors and resulted in a 40%
drop in First Quantum Minerals’ market value. While lawmakers have attempted to terminate the
contract, the final decision rests with Panama’s top court. This has raised concerns about the future of
copper supplies, as this $10 billion copper mine accounts for 1% of global output and plays a significant
role in the production of electric vehicles.

Towards the end of October, a strike by truck drivers in the Democratic Republic of Congo resulted in the
blockage of nearly 2,700 trucks carrying around 89,000 tons of copper in Kolwezi. This disruption in
supply may cause a shortage of global copper widely used in the construction and power generation
industries. According to a Reuters survey, a minor market surplus this year could become a deficit if the
strike continues. The DRC is the world’s third-biggest copper producer, contributing 10.4% of the global
mined supply last year. The trucker strike has impacted major suppliers like Ivanhoe Mines, CMOC,
Glencore, and Sicomine.

Tougher Permitting

A decline in copper ore grades has made it necessary for miners to extract more ore to obtain the same
amount of copper. Governments have implemented environmental regulations that are causing copper
mining to become more complex and costly by requiring miners to reduce their water usage and

With new mines taking years to open due to opposition and delays, some are targeting closed
brownfield mine sites to produce copper faster. Opening brownfield mines remains costly but avoids
destroying new lands, though environmental cleanup is still needed. Reopening a closed brownfield
mine requires over $2 billion in investment. However, the time it saves is substantial. It takes an average
of 15.7 years after discovery for a new mine to begin production commercially. Actual times range from 6
to 32 years, according to S&P Global Intelligence. Compared to developing new mines, building smelters
in China takes only 2-3 years. As a result, there is a supply “paradox.”

Firms predict that 50% of the future copper supply will come from countries like the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Botswana, and Mongolia, which have higher grades but also obstacles, such as
lack of expertise and their own prevailing laws. Issues in these new supply countries could impact the
copper price index.

Looking forward

Demand for Copper

Copper is an integral part of our lives. It is used in:

With the government spending billions of dollars to replace lead service lines, copper pipelines are
emerging as a safer, more dependable, and sustainable alternative. However, replacing all 12 million
lead and galvanized service lines in America requires over 650 million feet of copper tubing, equivalent
to 180,000 tons of metal. In 2022, the U.S. only produced twenty-two million tons of copper. Upgrading
the nation’s infrastructure will require over $56 billion, far more than the $15 billion currently provided
by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The growth of renewable energy and electric vehicles has resulted in an enormous demand for copper.
Copper is critical in renewable energy storage systems, solar panels, and wind turbines. It is used in
wiring, busbars, and connectors within solar panels and in generator coils, transformers, and electric
cables of wind turbines. According to The International Energy Agency, wind turbines can require up to 9
tons of copper per M.W., while solar power needs over 3 tons of copper per MW. Similarly, electric
vehicles need over 117 lbs. of copper per M.W., more than the amount of nickel and cobalt combined
and almost six times the amount of lithium required. According to Goldman Sachs, electric vehicles and
charging stations will account for 27% of additional copper consumption over the next decade, rising to
1.5 million tons in 2025.

Global Supply vs Demand

Copper grades have declined over many years, requiring more ore to produce the same amount of
copper, while environmental regulations are increasing mining costs. Some producers are redeveloping
closed mines to meet growing battery, EV, renewable, and infrastructure demand amid new mine delays.
According to a prominent Chinese copper executive, the global copper market will face a shortage by
2025 as mining lags smelting expansion in Asia. Several reports project a doubling of copper demand by
2035 yet forecast inadequate supply increases, raising concerns of severe shortfalls.
Long-term projections through 2030 for copper pricing and demand remain positive due to the push for
decarbonization and renewable energy by world governments. However, near-term demand depends on
the global economy, particularly China.

In 2024, China will continue to drive global copper demand, while high rates have slowed manufacturing
elsewhere. Operating constraints and smelter maintenance outages in Chile, Indonesia, Sweden, and the
United States capped copper production outside China last year. According to local data provider
Shanghai Metal Market, Shanghai copper inventories remained low for the better part of the year, and
national output rose by 11.5% year-over-year in the first eight months of 2023. March of 2023 saw
monthly refined copper at record levels above 1 million tons. Still, China relies heavily on copper
concentrate imports and needs to import 70% of the input material for copper smelting.

It remains to be determined whether new smelters and capacity expansions in Indonesia, India, and the
United States will compensate for the weakness experienced in those markets throughout 2023. The
ICSG believes that the amount of copper produced from recyclable materials will increase this year
thanks to investment in new secondary smelters and refineries in those countries. Firms like Goldman
Sachs continue to predict that 50% of the copper supply will come from unexpected places like the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, and Mongolia. While these countries produce higher
reserve grades, they lack expertise and experience limitations due to their restrictive laws.

A tight balance between copper supply and demand is expected to be seen into 2025 before deficits are
realized as mining lags smelting expansions, capacity, and growth. The ICSG forecasts more than a 4.6%
jump in global refined copper and a 467,000-ton surplus in 2024 as production outpaces usage, but
Western weakness could offset Chinese strength. CRU predicts a deficit of 342,000 tons in 2025, after a
surplus of 260,000 tons expected next year due to rising needs from smelters in China, India, and

Japan’s Mitsubishi plans a 34% increase in copper output in the second half of the 2023-2024 fiscal year.
The Naoshima Smelter & Refinery in western Japan is expected to increase copper production by about
17% in the second half due to an absence of scheduled maintenance conducted during the previous
year. Copper output at Onahama Smelting & Refining in eastern Japan will rise about 61% into 2024 due
to the completion of a copper joint venture in April of 2023, where it purchased the stakes of DOWA
Holdings and Furukawa Co.

Barrick Gold sees global demand for copper set to surge over the next several years. The company has
stated the desire for copper to account for 30% of its overall profit by the decade’s end. It will accomplish this by expanding its Lumwana Pit mine to double copper production to 240,000 tons annually and through its $7 billion Reko Diq project in Pakistan.

Governmental Policies

The DXY peaked in October, which made metals priced in U.S. dollars more expensive to holders of other
currencies. The dollar hit a high of 107.34 in October and finished the year at 101.38. A weakened dollar
should begin to ease the expense of copper to foreign buyers.

It is expected that the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates in 2024. Before the latest PCE release,
markets were pricing in 6 25bp cuts, equating to a fed-funds rate of 3.75%-4.00%, or a 1.5 percentage
point reduction in the Fed’s target next year. This anticipated policy shift resulted in a stock market and
precious metals rally not seen in many years and an 8% increase in the price of copper in 6 weeks.

Many economists urged some caution as the Federal Reserve would need to see inflation come back
down to target – 2% – to significantly lower interest rates in 2024. The most recent PCE index, the Fed’s
preferred measure of inflation, cooled more than economists had anticipated, bringing the annualized
rates over the past three and six months down to at or below the Fed’s 2% target.

Data showed that the labor market has been cooling in the face of the Fed’s rate hikes from March 2022
to July 2023. However, the U.S. unemployment rate is now at 3.7%, just a 10th of a point above where it
was when the Fed began raising rates. Several factors could halt, or even reverse progress on inflation,
including the extended disruption of traffic through the Suez Canal resulting from Houthi militant attacks
on ships in the Red Sea; a rise in consumer confidence could set up more robust spending ahead. Easier
financial conditions, with the 10-year yield back down to where it was in July when the Fed last raised
rates, could add fuel to borrowing and investment.

Overall, cutting rates stimulates the economy. Provided data over the next few quarters supports a
reduction in interest rates; we should see demand for copper rise as people find homes more affordable
and spend money on home improvements.

Another positive for copper in the coming years is the support of Governments like the USA and China
for solar industries, providing subsidies and other incentives to encourage solar power development.
This has helped to make solar power one of the most cost-competitive forms of energy in China and the
U.S. As a result, solar power is expected to play a significant role in the energy mix in the coming years.
Several Governments support the increasing use of electric vehicles (EVs use significantly more copper
than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. This growth in EV sales will drive significant demand for

Environmental regulations are also making copper mining more difficult and expensive, with many
governments requiring miners to reduce their water usage and emissions. Furthermore, social unrest in
mining regions is another challenge that copper miners face, as exemplified by the recent referendum
over Canadian company First Quantum Minerals’ Cobre Panama mine. Making the supply of copper
while increasing the demand for copper should see the value of this red metal appreciate over the next
several years.

Residential and Commercial Construction

From November 2022 to November 2023, the seasonally adjusted one-year change in privately owned
housing units authorized in permit-issuing places was 4.1%. For privately owned housing units
authorized but not started, the seasonally adjusted one-year change was -8%. Privately owned housing
units saw an increase of 14.8% YOY. Privately-owned housing units under construction at the end of the
period were up .7% for the year when seasonally adjusted. Overall, private housing units completed on a
YOY basis were down -6.2%. The total value of private construction on a YOY basis as of October 2023
(most recent data) was up 9.2%, and total public construction was up 16.4%.

This data tells us that in the private sector, multi-family homes, manufacturing, religious, educational,
and health care accounted for most of the increase. Privately owned housing units saw an increase in
authorization and starts. However, data showed a decrease in the completion of these homes. In the
public sector, power, sewage and waste disposal, conservation and development, and public accounted
for the bulk of the value of construction put in place. On the new home front, more people living under
one building utilize less building space and, therefore, less copper. Manufacturing accounted for 71.6%
of the increase, which is a positive. In the public sector, power accounted for over 50% of the value of
construction put in place in the US, which is also positive.

The trends in public and private housing and construction can be attributable to sticky inflation during
the first half of last year and higher interest rates, which made the costs of purchasing new buildings
prohibitively restrictive. In the back half of 2023, we saw inflation cool, and the expectations of lowered
interest rates eased bond yields. If the Federal Reserve cuts rates next year, we could see some of the
ongoing construction become more affordable to complete, and the demand for buildings go up as
prices come down. This will increase the demand for copper and put positive pressure on pricing.
On Nov 20th, Chinese officials promised support for their country’s property sector, leading to a rise in
copper prices.


Copper has earned the nickname “Dr. Copper” as it has often served as a bellwether for the global
economy’s health. When economies thrive, there is an increased need for copper, while economic
downturns lead to reduced demand. Because of this, the metal has earned the title of a trusted doctor,
prescribing insight into the world’s financial pulse.

On July 31st, 2023, the US Department of Energy (DOE) officially put copper on its critical materials list,
marking the first time a US Government agency has included copper in a “critical” list, following the
examples set by the EU, China, Canada, and many other major economies.

Bank of America’s commodity research team led by Michael Wildmer and Francisco Blanch said copper’s
sensitivity to GDP growth has waned in a recent research note. “As a cyclical asset, copper demand has
always been closely correlated with global GDP growth, but that sensitivity has been declining,” the Bank
of America team said. “This reduced beta to GDP has already provided support to copper prices at
around $8500/t (3.86/lb) in recent quarters and limited downside price pressures on the red metal amid
an industrial recession, a rare occurrence,” they add.

It would prove extremely difficult to predict precisely where copper pricing will end up one year from
now, as many variables and unforeseen geo-political events can occur. This article has outlined some
positive and negative factors that could influence copper pricing over the next one to two years.
Reduced interest rates, decreased inflation, and increased manufacturing and construction are seen as
positives for copper in the near to medium term. Chile, Japan, and China have all increased estimates for
copper production next year. This should be balanced with continued restrictive policies on opening new
mines, production costs for existing mines and smelters, and political unrest that may or may not
continue in top-producing countries.

Making longer-term predictions in copper prices is a more straightforward bet as we know that based on
population growth and projected demand for copper, demand will outpace supply in the medium to long
term. The push to decarbonize the world by top governments through solar and natural energy and
electric vehicles will increase the need for more copper. In addition, the exponential aspect of population
growth means that more housing and buildings will be required. Because of the limited amount of
copper on earth, both in mining and refining capacity, there will not be enough copper to satisfy the
demand, and copper prices should appreciate considerably.

Robotic arms sorting trash and recycling into separate bins for plastic, glass, etc.

The growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has accelerated exponentially in recent years due to continuous research and innovation. AI offers businesses numerous advantages, such as reduced costs, new job creation, improved productivity, and better decision-making capabilities.

By 2022, the market size of AI soared to USD 136.55 billion and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 37.3% from 2023 to 2030. With its wide range of applications across various industries, such as automotive, healthcare, retail, finance, and manufacturing, AI promises vast opportunities for businesses looking to benefit from this technology. The Scrap Recycling industry is a massive yet technologically underdeveloped sector that has the potential to benefit immensely from AI.


Leveraging AI-Driven Analysis


As metal recyclers grapple with the complexities of managing their operations, AI is being used to help make more informed and profitable decisions. AI helps them analyze large volumes of data – including prices, supply and demand, and trade patterns – far faster than any human could do. Recyclers use this data to swiftly identify trends and make accurate predictions about future market conditions that could impact their profits.

Staying ahead of the curve is crucial for achieving success in the metal recycling industry. AI provides recyclers with a powerful tool to gain insights into market sentiment and predict shifts in the market before they happen. By leveraging AI-driven analysis of news articles, social media posts, and other texts related to the industry, recyclers can make proactive decisions that will keep them competitive.


Using AI Automation to Improve Sorting Efficiency


Illustration of robotic arms sorting recycling on a conveyer beltOver the last several years, the waste management industry has shifted towards automating procedures, starting with the collection process. AI smart bins, for example, use sensors and cameras to monitor waste levels, detect contamination, and optimize collection schedules to improve resource allocation and reduce unnecessary pickups. By learning from historical data through machine learning algorithms, these smart bins can provide valuable insights into waste generation and future demand patterns that would otherwise be impossible to predict, achieving cost savings while also reducing the negative impact on the environment.

In the past, human error and inefficiency have limited the recycling process. AI technology makes it possible to automate the sorting process with unprecedented accuracy, helping to identify metals quickly and efficiently. AI ensures that recycled products meet quality standards by detecting impurities, measuring material composition, and identifying defects. AI sorting capability improves recycling rates by minimizing contamination and providing higher-quality recycled materials.

Deep Learning is a form of AI that uses multiple layers of deep neural networks to learn from large amounts of data. This advanced technology isolates high-level features from raw input, enabling machines to identify patterns, make decisions, and even create new ideas based on what it has learned. It allows for a high level of recovery and accurate sorting of materials that dwarfs conventional technology. Deep-learning robots analyze materials much in the same way humans do. Using cameras and sensors, they scan the optical signature of recyclable materials by texture, color, material type, and product application. For example, AI can discern between:


It can also differentiate metals and contaminants such as:


Thanks to AI technology, it’s now possible to recover and reuse valuable metals like aluminum, which is currently experiencing a shortage. With AI, recycling facilities can retrieve more materials with higher purity levels, increasing recycling rates and reducing reliance on virgin materials.

Glacier, a San Francisco-based tech company, is developing a cutting-edge AI algorithm that can accurately detect over 90% of recyclable items in waste streams. The company specializes in developing customized solutions that select and sort specific materials.

EverSteel, a promising startup from the University of Tokyo, has focused on automating scrap metal sorting processes using AI. It accomplishes this by using computer vision systems, which can accurately classify scrap metal into over 20 categories and remove unrecyclable alloys and irregular material. These systems help to save precious time and effort for the human workers who come in later to complete the task. EverSteel technology is so innovative that they had to create their own data set to train their models.


AI Robots Improve Material Recovery and Labor Rates


EverestLabs, an organization that employs RecycleOS technology, fuses robotics and AI to substantially increase recycling facilities’ material recovery rate. RecycleOS’s cutting-edge AI models can precisely identify nearly indistinguishable objects. When compared with manual sorting, RecycleOS’s robots can perform twice the work in the same span of time.

ZenRobotics‘ Heavy Picker uses specific characteristics like shape or color to identify essential metals such as:


It can also specify objects like:


Scrap metal processing companies like Skrotfrag in Sweden have already employed ZenRobots. Skrotfrag’s sorting line uses Heavy Pickers from ZenRobotics, each with three arms. They stand out as one of the first companies in Sweden to apply robotic sorting technology to scrap metal.

AI robots, like AMP Cortex by AMP Robotics, offer drastic improvements in labor rates. These robots operate at lightning-fast speeds, sorting, picking, and placing materials with up to 120 picks per minute and 99% accuracy rates. Plants adopting the AMP system have reported an impressive 60% rise in labor efficiency and an 11% increase in recyclables capture. The impeccable efficiency of these robots allows them to accomplish in three hours what would take human sorters an entire workday to complete. The operation can accept materials other recycling plants can’t process and keep the whole process in-house. By replacing hard-to-secure human labor for sorting roles, the AMP robots offer facilities unmatched savings of up to 50-70%.

Unlike humans, AI robots can work around the clock, operate continuously without fatigue, and require minimal maintenance. Companies can rely on their consistency to quickly recover high-quality commodities. Robots are flexible machines that can adapt to changes in material streams and commodity prices, making them an essential asset in the recycling industry. With minimal training and refinement, robots can improve their performance over time, becoming more efficient and effective at sorting materials. Additionally, robots can multitask and target a broad range of materials, including challenging or hazardous items that may not be suitable for human workers.

AI and robotics have significantly reduced risks associated with handling hazardous materials at Metal Recycling Facilities (MRFs). Adopting AI in such facilities has also decreased the need for extensive safety training of human operators for working equipment and machinery, thereby reducing training overhead. Moreover, AI technology can help flag potential health and safety issues for operators, such as detecting aerosol bottles, propane and oxygen tanks, batteries, and ammunition, which can explode and cause fires.

MRFs can strategically deploy AI and robotics technologies to optimize their workforce, reallocating human workers to areas where their unique capabilities can add the most value. MRFs can save time and money on manual sorting by replacing lower-value, labor-intensive, or high-risk roles with AI-driven automation, allowing for streamlined operations. In the waste and recycling industry, there is a trend toward reducing the need for humans to work in sorting positions. Instead, the focus is on shifting towards supervisory and maintenance roles, which allows employees to progress into higher-skilled positions.


AI Software Helps Manage and Classify Scrap Metal

Companies are currently utilizing AI technology to develop apps that allow for quick categorization and pricing of scrap metal. Integrated Recycling Technologies (IRT) is developing a circuit board classification app to identify and analyze 75 board characteristics, including serial numbers and chip types, to determine their respective categories. As more images are uploaded, the deep-learning capabilities of the system will expand, allowing for a more comprehensive grading of the boards. IRT has enlisted the expertise of external engineers specialized in high-definition cameras, facial recognition software, and deep-learning technology to create a system that automates the grading and valuation process. Although the software was initially created for suppliers, the company will use it to manage its own circuit board sorting system.

Tecnoap, an esteemed company with three decades of expertise in the steel manufacturing industry, recently introduced its own AI software – SCRAPYARD – an innovative web-based platform dedicated to efficiently managing and classifying scrap metal. SCRAPYARD uses AI, sensors, and machine learning technologies to optimize operations on it’s platform. Advanced vision analytics organize different types of scrap metal, verify the weight of truckloads, determine load density, and accurately document the location of unloaded materials. The platform effortlessly generates a comprehensive digital file for each entry, capturing all the necessary details the supplier provides. By harnessing the power of AI, Tecnoap strives to enhance reliability and transparency, ensuring the eradication of fraudulent practices.


Fast Returns

According to recent analyses, certain AI units have the potential to achieve breakeven for investment in just under a year, highlighting the tremendous potential for profitability within the scrap metal industry. MRFs can generate significant profits within months following the installation of technologies such as RecycleOS, which streamline the recycling process and greatly enhance efficiency. However, it’s important to note that the payback period for such investments can vary depending on its specific application, for example, its utilization in data analysis, maintenance, or replacing human sorters.

3 Men working at Always Buying Scrap in Durham NCThe scrap metal industry offers a variety of jobs to suit all experience levels.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a career change, the opportunities available can lead to a rewarding job. From general labor to salespeople to experienced equipment operators and truck drivers, quality skills will be met with pay increases as you progress in the industry.

Moreover, jobs in the industry provide physical activity for those looking for a more hands-on career and the flexibility to work indoors or outdoors depending on the day-to-day tasks.


There are many jobs that the scrap recycling industry provides. These include:



Scrap yard worker driving a forkliftOver the years, jobs in the scrap metal recycling industry have become much safer for workers thanks to increasingly stringent protocols developed to ensure a safe work environment. Workers are taught to employ proper storage, containment, and handling activities to minimize potential workplace hazards. Many organizations such as OSHA, EPA, DEQ, and DOT are involved in regulating safety standards in the scrap metal industry.

The scrap metal recycling industry is an important and often overlooked contributor to the economy. Managers of these operations have worked hard to create jobs and business opportunities that positively impact the environment and the economy.

In 2021, jobs in the scrap metal recycling industry supported 506,000 people directly and indirectly, equating to over $117 billion in economic contribution.

An astonishing 130 million metric tons of valuable commodities were processed annually, with North Carolina alone providing jobs to 15,000 employees while collecting 300k in taxes.

2022 data has yet to be compiled, but expectations are high, with forecasts indicating an increased job growth rate due to the improved stability of supply chains after the COVID pandemic. The scrap metal recycling industry provides essential work for people across the country and is invaluable for local economies.

Always Buying Scrap is a proud employer of over a dozen employees. We are often hiring for one or more positions. Please see our listings for available job openings.

Always Buying Scrap, Durham NCReduce, Reuse, Remanufacture, and Recycle

The Scrap Metal Industry is involved in the circular economy as the 4th R in Reduce, Reuse, Remanufacture, and Recycle.  While it can often take a hundred years or more to reclaim some steel from buildings and infrastructure, recycling yards often see medium and short-service life commodities such as household metal products, domestic appliances, automobiles, and medical equipment. Our recycling efforts contribute at least 20% to the global metal output and contribute as much as 3-4% to the US GDP in recent years.

Supply Chain and Global Emissions

Supply chains strained by COVID-19 and geopolitical conflict including the taxing or prohibiting of the exportation of scrap metal, have created a need for countries to look within for sources of commodities. In addition, metal mining and manufacturing have a large footprint that commands attention. It is estimated that between 2-7% of all global C02 emissions are a result of aluminum and steel manufacturing. Recycling scrap metal reduces energy consumption by as much as 70% compared to making metal from ore.

On average, one ton of recycled steel saves approximately 3086 lbs. of iron ore, 1,630 pounds of coal, and 265 pounds of limestone.”

Scrap Recycling Durham NCThe scrap industry reduces our collective footprint on the environment by reusing resources.  It takes up to forty tons of earth to extract enough iron ore to make a ton of steel.  It takes only a ton of scrap steel to make a ton of steel. To put it in another way, recycling a single steel can save 1 laundry load, an hour of TV, or 24 hours of a 10-watt LED lightbulb.

The Scrap Industry employs many people.  Our industry provides jobs required for scrap collection, separation, and recycling. Jobs include accounting, sales, skilled labor, driving, mechanics, etc.

As of 2022, the US Scrap Metal Recycling Market is estimated at 9.2 billion and reach a valuation of 15.6 billion by the end of 2032.”

At Always Buying Scrap, we believe in sharing the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us. We service some local non-profits by helping them turn scrap into revenue for their programs.

We Support Families & Animals

In addition to trapping, spaying/neutering, and releasing feral & cast-away cats, we feed a feral cat colony 7 days a week including holidays and Sundays. We support Independent Animal Rescue through contributions and donations of cages, traps, and bowls that come in as scrap.

Always Buying Scrap, Inc. has made an earnest effort to support families affected by the 9-11 tragedy in NYC through

Our involvement in the community extends to university fund-raising events where ABS has donated dozens of vehicles throughout the years.

We really mean it when we say “what goes around comes around.”

Always Buying Scrap is resuming business with a new schedule and new safety plan during Phase 1 of Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions. The retail processing facility at 2210 Kate Street in Durham will operate from 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday and Saturday 8:00am to 11:30am starting Monday May 18th. Please check the Hours page of the site for any changes for holidays or other eventualities.

Customers can expect to see clean and sanitized hand washing area, and a hand sanitizing station at the payment center of the business. Owners Dave & Fran Rush are taking the responsibility of this re-open seriously with daily facility cleaning schedules and rules for the business. A supply of face masks will be available for employees and customers as well.

Customers and employees in the retail area of the scrap yard are required to wear face coverings and mind the social distancing practice of remaining 6 feet from others at all times. Always Buying Scrap has made masks for staff and customers (left).

The commercial pick-up and roll-off container service offered by Always Buying Scrap is continuing without interruption with most payments being made by mail and business conducted by phone. The vendors and resources necessary to conduct business are still intact and available, giving Always Buying Scrap the recipe for another great year satisfying customers, and recycling scrap metal materials.

For more information about retail prices or other inquiries, call us at (919) 251-9497 or email us from our contact page.  For commercial/business pick-up or roll-off services or pricing inquiries, call (877) SCRAP-30 or email Mike Lee. Thank you for your continued business, and we look forward to serving you soon.

Always Buying Scrap has begun a six-month long campaign to raise its visibility with businesses both locally and across the state. It wants to build partnerships and provide solutions to businesses that generate metal and convert that from a problem into a profit center for them.  The ad campaign in Business North Carolina shows one of its roll off container trucks.

Always Buying Scrap can work with companies to schedule a roll off container for a one-time pickup or for ongoing service.

Always Buying Scrap deals mainly with companies in the RTP area, but it does pick up further away as well, where volumes and other factors make it cost-effective. If you are a company looking for a scrap metal removal service that can turn that waste into dollars, contact us.

Business North Carolina has a circulation of around 26 thousand per edition and a readership of more than a hundred thousand, so Always Buying Scrap is hoping that among those readers there are companies who will look into the solutions Always Buying Scrap provides.

China was once a destination for low grade scrap where cheap labor was used to extract the valuable fractions. This is increasingly no longer true.

Some time ago, China instituted its “Green Fence” policy. They started to inspect imported scrap loads with greater frequency and intensity, looking for loads that might be garbage disguised as scrap. They were looking for loads of mixed plastics and scrap metal with a lot of tramp material. Rejected loads were sent back to their origin at the shipper’s expense. A lot of US-based brokers who exported to China simply stopped buying.

Fast forward. China – in an effort to clean up it’s environment and be in good standing with the World Trade Organization (WTO) of which it is now a member – has instituted a new policy called “National Sword”. This new policy has raised standards for purity, allowing no more than one percent contamination for many commodities such as plastic, cardboard, and many grades of scrap metal. In a word, China no longer has an insatiable appetite for low grade scrap. While still in the market for higher grades, China is no longer the dominant destination for scrap that it once was.

Some of this material will be diverted to other developing countries and the rest will stay here. The good news is that increased domestic processing capacity will be put on line to take advantage of this new opportunity to extract the valuable parts of “dirty scrap”. In the short term, domestic scrap sellers will be left with weaker markets for their products. Taking a longer view, those that invest in new machinery and technology will have new value-added opportunities, and those that supply them will have better domestic markets.

In terms of producing war materiel, providing jobs, as well as putting added value back into our G.D.P., we should take a hard look at trying to do the same for our domestic manufacturing sector. Nothing illustrates this more than the current panic over the difficulties of exporting raw materials to buy them back for more money as finished goods, while trying to figure out how to create good jobs for Americans. We should have never been in a situation of being overly-dependent on exporting our resources due to a lack of a need for them at home.

The conclusion: We need to clean up our act, and responsibly recycle our own scrap. At the end of the day, China may have done us a favor.

Following the president’s tweet, questions are being asked: “Should President Trump impose tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum?” And, “How will a tariff affect our economy and metal prices?”

If the allegations of foreign government subsidies to their steel and aluminum industries are true, then this is something that is detrimental to our domestic industries. The same could be said in cases of dumping (predatory pricing) where a product is sold cheaper than its production cost in an effort to gain market share by driving out competitors. This practice is illegal in the United States.

Barring these two scenarios, free market economics dictates that goods should always be produced by the lowest cost producer and sold into the highest market. Unless there is cheating going on to artificially lower costs, or there is a tariff on our goods sold into a foreign country, tariffs are probably not going to be helpful.


While providing a boost to domestic steel and aluminum producers, we already have a case of much-diminished domestic manufacturing capacity. Therefore, with a reduced ability to absorb this metal domestically, we will likely try to export more in a time where factors such as: a strong dollar; China using more of it’s own post-consumer scrap; and, possible retaliatory tariffs, may combine for a perfect storm of things that aren’t good.

Where Trump may be correct, is that at least for now, we’re still the world’s largest economy and the unwillingness to sell cheap products to us by means of retaliatory tariffs may ultimately hurt the foreign manufacturers a great deal. Unfortunately, this won’t come without pain for us, and therefore, tariffs should be used sparingly on a case-to-case basis. Soft power and careful negotiating may ultimately gain us more than sweeping tariffs.

Because scrap metal is easily converted to cash, unfortunately it’s a target for theft. Although stolen material represents about one percent or less of all purchases, it’s still a serious problem.

Through collaboration with the scrap metal industry, North Carolina has enacted state saws to help curtail the problem. These laws help to easily identify thieves of scrap metal and prosecute them.

Here are measures we take to ensure that stolen materials don’t end up at our yard: