Strong Appetite for Aluminum

If you run a solid waste management firm that collects aluminum products for recycling, you should find plenty of buyers for those materials in the year ahead. According to Greg Wittbecker, director of recycling for Alcoa Materials Management, global demand for virgin aluminum is expected to grow by approximately 10 percent this year. Demand for scrap aluminum will grow at an even higher rate in the United States, he added.

Wittbecker made his remarks during Monday's "Glass and Metals Recycling: What are Markets Doing?" conference session at WasteExpo. According to Wittbecker, U.S. demand for scrap aluminum is rising in part because of manufacturers' and consumers' desires for more recycled content in products, as well as the efforts of manufacturers to improve their profit margin with the use of scrap rather than virgin materials.

In the past, U.S. aluminum recyclers have relied very little on the international markets, Wittebecker said, noting that historically less than 5 percent of the aluminum collected in this country has been sent overseas. That percentage will increase in the years ahead, he added.

Wittebacker also noted that the U.S. aluminum industry has set a goal of increasing the nation's used beverage container recycling rate from its current 52 percent to 75 percent by 2015. "This material is too valuable to waste," he said.

Curbside recycling has not generated the amount of material that processors originally anticipated, and the increasing use of single-stream collection systems has raised issues with contamination, Wittebacker added.

Curt Bucey, president of Strategic Materials, spoke at the session on the state of the glass recycling market. He summarized the market by saying that recycled glass enjoys strong demand across the country and strong public support. However, the poor quality of recycled glass has hampered prices, and processing costs remain very high, Bucey added.

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