A major segment of Samoa’s scrap metal recycling has grinded to a halt due to dwindling steel prices.
From US$480 (T$1,104) to the current US$170 (T$391) per tonne, both Pacific Recycle and Waste Management who export scrap metal from Samoa have ceased ferrous metal exports.
The Manager of Pacific Recycles, Silafau Ioane Sio, said that previously they exported four containers or 100 tonnes per month of ferrous metal or steel.
But that has dropped “a hundred percent.”
“We are currently not exporting any steel or ferrous material,” he said.
While they operate in partnership with the government to collect scrap metal from “hotels, schools, village communities” and bins on the road, they receive “no government assistance in exports.”
The situation is similar at Waste Management, which previously operated under West End.
Manager Marina Keil explained that for the past year and a half, no ferrous metal has been exported.
Their overall exports per month has dwindled from 15-20 containers to just one or two of non-ferrous materials.
The market downturn has had other implications for the company as well, forcing them to lay off about 10 staff members.
And then there are also costs to recover.
Two years ago for example, they purchased a compactor for over $80,000 from overseas.
Most of the time now, the machine sits idle.
For Ms. Keil, she said recycling scrap metal serves an important environmental function as it prolongs the lifespan of the island’s Tafaigata Sanitary Landfill Facility.
“If all these big bulky junk and all this stuff goes to Tafaigata they’ll close up Tafaigata because there’s no more space,” she said.
Mr. Sio too sees reducing waste to the limited landfill as an important function of scrap metal exporting.
“Samoa is not a big place,” he said. “Since we started ten years ago we’ve been moving out quite a huge amount of scrap metal which would have ended up in landfill. It is a way to save landfill.”
Furthermore, Mr. Sio emphasises that recycling scrap metal is also “an employment opportunity.”
It was not possible to get a comment from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment yesterday.