Recycling Indus try Yearbook
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.
How Is Scrap Transported?
The three most common modes of U.S. domestic scrap
transport are by truck, rail, and barge, in addition to intermodal
shipments that use more than one mode. Each mode of
shipment has its own costs and
While shipping via trucks can be
a high per-unit cost option, trucks
are a significant mode of domestic
transport for scrap, especially for
intra-regional scrap flows. Shipment
by rail can be a less costly option
per ton than trucking, and railcars
have a greater tonnage capacity
than trucks, although during times of tight railcar availability
this mode of transport can be less predictable. In the United
States, according to figures from the Association of American
Railroads, more than 39 million tons of scrap and waste
materials originated on Class I railroads in 2016.
Barges and domestic waterborne shipments are a third major
mode of transport for
scrap. While adverse
weather conditions can
significantly impact barge
traffic, barges are often
the lowest-cost option on
a per-unit basis.
The containerization of
scrap shipments opened overseas markets to a much wider
range of U.S. scrap processors, although a large portion of U.S.
scrap exports are still shipped as bulk (unpackaged) cargo. In
2016, the United States exported 37 million metric tons of
scrap around the world. According to preliminary data from
the United Nations Comtrade database, more than 160 million
tons of scrap valued at more than $70 billion were exported
globally in 2016.