Recycling Market Snapshot: Autumn 2015


It has been another busy year for us here at InStream thanks to all of our wonderful customers. To date we have recycled over 68 million pounds of material for our clients in 2015. We value working with such diligent customers who responsibly dispose of these materials, and we look forward to meeting all of our clients’ waste stream management needs in the future.

As we enter into the heart of Autumn it’s time to take a look at what has been a very strange period in the recycling market, particularly for scrap metal.

The ferrous market limped into Q4 on the heels of three straight months of decreasing prices. Market watchers were caught by surprise when that trend not only continued in October, but actually became even more drastic. Pricing for most major ferrous categories dropped between $50 and $60 per gross ton across the United States.

Though there are numerous factors behind this period of price deterioration, the most important are low commodity prices worldwide, the strong dollar and its effect on importation, China’s slowing economy and very low domestic steel production.

Sadly there is still no sign of recovery for scrap steel, and industry experts are expecting further price erosion in November of around $10-20 per ton. Until domestic steel production increases or cheap material from foreign suppliers dries up, demand for domestic steel scrap will remain low and pricing will continue to suffer.

Nonferrous metals have fared poor, as well. Copper scrap has been in a slow decline since the middle of the year and the fundamentals for the red metal offer little hope that price increases will emerge anytime soon. Even so, copper remains the surest bet in the scrap metal market.

Aluminum scrap has fared even worse than copper in 2015, with most major grades losing about $0.20 per pound since the year began. Prices are not expected to rise in the short term, either, with waning year-end demand further pressuring aluminum tags downward.

The recycled paper market has also been rather strange this year, with OCC (old corrugated containers) prices trending higher over the past six months while SOP (sorted office paper) prices trend downward. OCC pricing has remained constant since August, when pricing reached its highest level since one year earlier. This is astounding when compared to SOP which is currently fetching its lowest prices since December of 2013!

Plastic scrap pricing remains very low. The plastic market is largely tied to the price of oil which continues to dip lower due to increased production worldwide and lower demand from China. While this is good news for the consumer at the gas pump and purchasing agents buying packaging material, it does mean that plastic scrap has far less value than it did in the past.


Disclaimer – Prices and market related information shown has been obtained by many sources across many commodity markets.  InStream has not verified the information beyond our sources. Information is based on assumptions and projections based on current market drivers. This information is provided as a service and InStream is not recommending action based on the market information provided and is not responsible for the direction of markets and/or results based on the data provided.


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