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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.