[This post aside - Shanghai Scrap is officially on hiatus through the first week of April.]
I must admit: when I chose the name Shanghai Scrap for this blog it did not occur to me that scrap traders from, say, Lagos to, say, Linyi would look at the name and automatically assume that, a) I own a scrap yard in Shanghai in need of regular shipments of Peruvian paper scrap, or b) I own a scrap yard in Shanghai, and I have vast reserves of e-waste that I am desperate to ship to Karachi (with material and geographical variations on both scenarios). No, I was naive, and I just assumed that people would look at the actual content, and realize that someone who runs a website with occasional coverage of bogus Shanghai UFO sightings probably isn’t running a scrap trading business.
But, as I’ve learned, people are busy, and “Shanghai Scrap” is often more than enough to convince your busy Panamanian telephone cable scrap broker that he’s found his one-stop destination. And really, I don’t mind. As it happens, such misunderstandings have informed my understanding of the ebb and flow of the world’s global waste and recycling trade more than most traditional sources. Even better: every once in a while, they’ve provided me with a bit of news.
Take, for instance, the unsolicited email that I’ve excerpted below (I’ve X’d out identifying information). Though I am loathe to provide anonymity to anyone who mass emails scrap purchase/sell offers to me, this is one vendor whom I’d like to protect: they are a very large, very well-known, Chinese state-owned raw material company about whom I’d like to write in the not-so-distant future. In any event, despite a global depression in scrap recyclable prices, they are suddenly mass emailing scrap bloggers (well, me), in search of serious metal supply. As noted before on this blog, various levels of the Chinese government are currently stockpiling metal, partly as a means of keeping state-owned metal firms in the black. I suspect that the following offer (made in English, no less!) is funded by government stockpile money. After the email, I’ll offer a couple of hypotheses:
Subject: Purchase Aluminum Scraps
Dear Adam Minter;
We are XXX Metals Co., Ltd, it is the wholly owned subsidiary of XXX(XXX is the short form of XXXX Limited is the XXX alumina and primary aluminum producer in china, the XXX largest alumina and the XXX largest electrolytic aluminum producer in the world XXX is a production-style enterprise engaged in secondary aluminum reclaiming and aluminum alloy research and development centre in china with designed capacity of XXX,000 tons alloy ingots annually. We have regular order about aluminum scraps/per month as following; we shall be pleased to receive your quotation CIFXXXUSD/MT with terms of payment ,
[what follows are various industry standard terms for types of aluminum scrap]
A: Zorba: 50 containers in 40 Feet
B:Aluminium Cables: 5 containers in 40 Feet
C:Tense: 20 containers in 40 Feet
D:Taint/tabor: 10 containers in 40 Feet
Your early reply will be highly appreciated.
For readers in the scrap business, you can probably guess the buyer. For those not in the scrap business, let me assure you: that’s some serious volume and, even with depressed global prices, the net value of those containers – if shipped – will be significant. What’s puzzling to me is that the buyer feels compelled to send out emails in search of material. Is it possible that their regular customers don’t have the material? Or, alternatively, did the Chinese buyer renege on contracts during the fall 2008 market downturn, and now his regular customers won’t deal with him? Or, heck, does it just happen to be the case that the Purchasing Manager is a go-getter? Whatever the case, it’s no secret that some base metal prices are trending upward.