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Released: 6/17/1999

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Michael McKinley 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4968 | FAX: 703-648-7757

Thomas P. Dolley
Phone: 703-648-7789

The next time that you toss an aluminum can in your recycle bin, you will have made an important contribution to the Nation’s economy. If the world’s population doubles in the next 40 years, as expected, recycling will be a significant source of metal. U.S. Geological Survey studies of market trends for eight recycled metals in the United States indicate that recycling is expected to remain a strong component of metals supply in the U.S. The findings of the USGS studies, which have world-wide implications, will be presented by USGS scientist, Michael McKinley, in an invited paper, "Recent Market Trends of Recycled Metals in the United States" at the 4th ASM International Conference and Exhibition on "Recycling of Metals" in Vienna, Austria, June 17-18.

"Lead, steel, titanium, aluminum, and copper had the highest recycling rates. In steel, scrap-based electric arc furnaces have captured a major portion of steelmaking capacity—about 45% in 1998," says McKinley. The cost effectiveness of recycling in the steel industry, for example, is primarily due to the abundance of iron scrap. Understanding the dynamics of materials flow can help the U.S. not only manage present and future use of its natural resources, but also protect the environment. The paper examines recent market trends in the U.S. for recycled aluminum, cobalt, copper, iron and steel, lead, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Factors affecting these trends are discussed, including the influence of key international events, such as the Asian financial crisis, that are thought to have affected recycling. Additionally, the paper includes a presentation of price and consumption data for selected scrap metals in the U.S. during recent years in conjunction with an analysis of trade for the same period.

McKinley further states that "Sustainable development means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future. The one facet of sustainability that seems to get everyone’s attention is the forecast that the world’s population will double by 2040. Those in the minerals and materials business are concerned with how to keep this burgeoning population supplied with the necessary materials. The USGS has been expanding its role in minerals information to include addressing the concepts of materials flow and sustainability."

The USGS works with other Federal, State, and local agencies to address materials related sustainability issues. Twenty-five materials flow studies are planned over the next 2 years in support of national and international interests, including those of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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