Snapshot of metals recycling in South Africa

South Africa is a country of contrasts. Rich and poor, urban sprawl and open countryside, mountains and coastal regions, different racial groups - all co-exist in a country the size of Europe.  With a growth rate of 5% in 2006, the country’s economy is doing well. However, South Africa is facing many problems. One of the biggest is its unemployment rate which, according to 2006 government statistics, stands at around 25% although more realistic estimates put it closer to 50%.

As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, with only a small middle class as a buffer between the two, it is no surprise that serious crimes - including murders, car-jackings and robberies - increased for the first time last year since apartheid came to an end in 1994; according to police statistics, the number of serious offences climbed 2.4% to 19 202. Business people consider these statistics to be the greatest disincentive to invest in post-apartheid South Africa.
Domestic markets first

In line with the country’s thriving economy, South Africa’s metals recycling business is performing very well. There are an estimated 800 scrap-related companies, of which 87 are members of the South African Metals Association. Seven of the largest metal recyclers can be found in Gauteng, the province of which Johannesburg is the capital and where some 70% of the country’s industrial activity is focused; three major metal recyclers can be found around Durban while
another one - SA Metal - is headquartered in Cape Province. Statistics suggest that around 70 000 to 80000 tonnes of ferrous scrap is available each month.

Most of the metals recyclers I visited during my stay in South Africa subscribed to a policy of serving their domestic customers first while exporting their surplus, mainly to Asia and Europe.

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