Stealing feeds China’s need for steel

This puts recycling in a new light …

The Honolulu Advertiser

At Belgium’s biggest railway station, 770 of 800 steel luggage carts have vanished. In Pittsburgh, 400 parking meters were plucked from roadsides, and in Shanghai, manhole covers are disappearing from the streets.

From London to Kolkata, India, scavengers are plundering anything that contains iron, steel or copper, costing local governments and companies millions of dollars. Prices in the $85 billion global scrap market have tripled since 2003 as China has sucked in recycled metal from around the world.

‘There is an almost insatiable global demand for scrap, mainly to feed China’s steel mills and its booming economy,’ says Rick Wilcox, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association in Brampton, England.

China’s gross domestic product grew 9.5 percent in 2004, the fastest among the world’s biggest economies, increasing demand for metal to build office towers, cars and appliances. China this year will buy almost a third of the world’s steel and account for 80 percent of the growth in demand, according to the International Iron & Steel Institute, a trade group for steelmakers.

The price of heavy scrap steel in Britain nearly tripled to $265 a metric ton in December from March 2003, according to Worcester Park, England-based Metal Bulletin Plc, which publishes prices and news on metals markets.

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