UK exports most steel scrap in Europe in 2020

The UK was the largest exporter of steel scrap in 2020 among the 28 countries that formerly made up the European Union, according to the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR). 

However, exports were down 14.4% on 2019 to 5.661 million tonnes as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Despite dropping by 14% from 2019, UK exports of steel were still the highest in Europe last year

The BIR, an international recycling federation based in Brussels, published its twelfth report on world steel recycling on 15 June.

The report suggests Turkey cemented its position as the world’s foremost steel scrap importer in 2020, increasing its overseas purchases by 19% to just more than 22.4 million tonnes.

Turkey’s main supplier was the USA, from whom it obtained nearly 4.4 million tonnes, while UK exports to the country increased by 5.2% to just more than 2.3 million tonnes.

Gregory Schnitzer, president of the BIR ferrous division, said in his foreword to the report: “We estimated for the world as a whole that 630 million tonnes of steel scrap are recycled every year, saving around 950 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

“For 2020, however, our statistics show a decline in steel scrap use and in crude steel production for the majority of our key countries and regions.

“According to the available figures, steel scrap use in key countries and regions went down to 462.9 million tonnes while worldwide external steel scrap trading declined to 99.3 million tonnes.

“Our statistics reflect the negative influence of the coronavirus pandemic on global steel scrap use and crude steel output in 2020.”

In the UK, the BIR’s members include the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), the Recycling Association and the Textile Recycling Association.


After Turkey, the countries to whom the UK sent the second and third largest amounts of steel scrap exports in 2020 were Pakistan and Egypt, at just more than one million tonnes and 863,000 tonnes respectively.

In 2020 the UK exported 544,000 tonnes of steel scrap to India, the world’s second-largest steel scrap importer. This was down 37.4% from 869,000 tonnes in 2019.

Turkey was the most popular destination for steel exports, followed by Pakistan and India

The UK also exported 211,000 tonnes to the USA, 172,000 tonnes to Saudi Arabia and 171,000 tonnes to Bangladesh.

UK exports to the USA and Saudi Arabia represented noteworthy increases of 55.1% and a massive 719% from 2019 respectively, the BIR said, while exports to Bangladesh fell by 76.9%.

Steel scrap

The EU remained the world’s largest steel scrap exporter in 2020, the BIR said, growing its outbound shipments by 4% to more than 22.6 million tonnes. Its major buyer was Turkey, which increased its imports by 17.5% to just more than 14 million tonnes.

Steel scrap usage increased in Turkey in 2020 by 7.8% to just over 30 million tonnes, while its crude steel production increased by 6.1%.

The proportion of steel scrap used in Turkey’s crude steel production increased to 84.1% in 2020.

Global crude steel production totalled close to 1.9 billion tonnes in 2020, the BIR said, up 0.1% from 2019.

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