Energy Efficiency & Emissions Reduction

We are decreasing our energy and air emissions footprint by accessing carbon-free sources of power, capturing more of the emissions we generate, and investing in more energy-efficient equipment.

Access to abundant, clean, and carbon-free energy for our major operating facilities reduces the emissions impact of our industrial processes. Our mill’s location in McMinnville, Oregon enables us to utilize electricity largely sourced from carbon-free hydroelectric power generated by the Columbia River Dam System. As a result, while 76 percent of the electricity we use is attributed to our steel manufacturing operations, the facility is responsible for only 16 percent of emissions from our electricity use. Likewise, a significant number of our autos and metals recycling operations are located in California, the Pacific Northwest, and British Columbia, which are also largely powered by carbon-free energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and hydroelectric.

In fiscal 2020, our carbon-free electricity power mix was 93 percent, meaning that we exceeded our target of achieving and maintaining at least 90 percent carbon-free electricity use by the end of fiscal 2025. We remain enrolled in voluntary clean power procurement programs with several of our electricity utility service providers, which allows us to support the use of affordable power from renewable, carbon-free, or low-carbon sources within our communities. In addition, we are exploring the use of advanced battery energy storage systems and technologies for our metal shredding facilities.

Air Quality Compliance

There is an evolving understanding within the metals recycling industry regarding the level of air emissions generated by shredding activities. Through extensive source testing conducted at our Oakland, California metals recycling facility, Schnitzer has taken a leadership position by properly quantifying our air emissions associated with shredding operations and taking appropriate steps to capture, treat, and ultimately reduce and avoid such emissions.

These steps include a multi-year initiative to install enclosures and emission control systems on our shredders. On our largest throughput shredders, we are also installing regenerative thermal oxidizers to treat volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. VOC treatment protects air quality by both reducing the potential for ground-level ozone formation and significantly decreasing GHG emissions.

Enclosures have been used to reduce emissions from other industrial processes but are a relatively new technological application within the metals recycling industry. When added to a shredder and designed in a manner consistent with U.S. EPA protocols, they can capture more than 95 percent of the emissions produced during the shredding process. As these installations are completed over the next several years, they will help us to meet our goal of reducing, by 25 percent, our absolute direct GHG emissions from recycling operations.

Schnitzer continues to help prevent dirt, dust, and debris from impacting local air and water quality by washing and capturing the material from trucks that pass through our metals recycling yards. Custom wheel wash systems remove dirt and dust from truck wheels upon exit from several of our metals recycling facilities, thus reducing the volume of fine particles tracked onto surrounding roadways. We have also invested in paving projects on unimproved surfaces at various locations to further minimize “track-out” potential while also aiding in stormwater management.

Our Progress on Shredder Emissions Control Systems
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Everett, MA

Commissioned and operational

Oakland, CA

Upgrading an existing enclosure and particulate control system to include VOC treatment and acid gas scrubbing systems

Tacoma, WA

Designing full emissions control, VOC treatment, and acid gas scrubbing systems

Portland, OR

Designing full emissions control, VOC treatment, and acid gas scrubbing systems

Kapolei, HI

Designing an
enclosure and particulate emissions control system

A Continuously Improving Equipment Fleet

We reduce our energy use as well by regularly maintaining and upgrading our mobile and fixed equipment—seeking replacements that offer improved fuel efficiencies. In fiscal 2020, we invested more than $11 million to replace several pieces of front-line equipment, such as material handlers, loaders, hold trucks, and excavators, as part of a four-year plan to upgrade our fleet to more fuel-efficient models. Roughly 21 percent of the energy we consume is fuel used for these types of vehicles, including on- and off-road transportation vehicles and metal-working equipment.

As we replace and re-tool equipment, we ensure compliance with emissions regulations in each of our markets. For example, we purchase EPA-certified Tier IV internal combustion engines, which offer lower particulate and smog-related emissions. Other important equipment includes the car crushers used at our Pick-n-Pull stores. We are in the process of replacing diesel-powered crushers with electric models. Currently, 60 percent of our auto dismantling sites are operating electric car crushers.

1 May not add to 100 percent due to rounding.

Reducing Emissions Across Our Value Chain

Schnitzer works with major retailers who supply scrap, such as used household appliances, to our metal recycling facilities to minimize the emissions associated with their transportation. Before working with Schnitzer, one of our trade suppliers lacked a way to densify its shipments, meaning that it frequently delivered less-than-full truckloads of scrap material. Now, by using Schnitzer-provided portable balers and compactor trucks, the retailer is able to deliver fewer and fuller truckloads—burning less fuel in the process.

Improving Efficiency at Cascade Steel

Schnitzer is helping reduce the air emissions produced by melting scrap metal at our mill. Carbon is added to steel alloys to give it strength, using carbon injection systems. These systems, installed in fiscal 2020, allow us to add carbon in more precise amounts, thereby reducing overall process emissions.