Will China's Demand for Aluminum Help U.S. Recycling?

With U.S. recycling markets showing signs of economic stress, a recent report on the future of aluminum in China brings positive news. Demand from the country is expected to increase 54.32 percent by 2012, compared with 2007.

According to the report, China’s growing demand for aluminum products is causing its fabricating capacity to expand. China’s National Bureau of Statistics reports that in the past five years, output rose 34.1 percent and hit 12.4 million tons in 2007.

The major markets for aluminum products include:

  • Aluminum cans baled for recycling. -TexasDailyPhoto.com

    Aluminum cans baled for recycling. -TexasDailyPhoto.com


  • Power Grid
  • Packaging
  • Building Construction
  • Durable Consumer Goods
  • Machinery Manufacturing

These industries are faring well in China, due to its substantial growth.

Aluminum products are increasingly favored “for their light weight, fuel efficiency, low emissions and recycling features.” The industry is also likely to move into high value-added product production as it grows. 

China’s total aluminum fabricating capacity is expected to reach 25 million tons by 2012. The Aluminum Corporation of China (Chinalco), China’s largest aluminum and alumina producer, plans to add 1.05 million tons to its current capacity, to reach 2.17 million tons by the end of 2010.

What About U.S.?

For Americans, this could be good news for the future of the U.S. recycling industry. China purchases many materials for recycling from the U.S., and increased output there could translate into increased demand for recyclables here. Some attribute the decline of American recycling to the Beijing Olympics, where Chinese recycling centers were shut down for pollution reasons during the games. However, these factories continued to receive inventory, resulting in a surplus of materials which the Chinese have yet to exhaust.

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  1. Jennifer.

    The problem with your question is that China’s Aluminum industry has seen a massive fallout on the demand side, and ingot per ton prices are off 40%+ from their highs 18 months ago.

    We have already seen packaging and other recycled metals fall off in the US with some groups abandoning their routes in US cities, and unfortunately this trend is likely to continue as long as the global economic issues remain.


  2. All Roads’ comment notwithstanding, I would look at the greater impact that increasing aluminum costs would have on American businesses. Frankly, recycling is important but the much greater impact is on prices to business and the competition for scarce resources.

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