Minimizing & Managing Waste

By its very nature, Schnitzer’s business model is about minimizing the volume of materials that ends up in landfills. Our recycling operations, recycled products, and recycling services all contribute to this goal, and much of our process waste finds new life in the form of reusable by-products.

Schnitzer facilities recover and recycle mercury switches, tires, fluids, lead-acid and EV batteries, catalytic converters, and other components from end-of-life vehicles and appliances. We use advanced separation technologies to further extract materials from shredded scrap. And we manufacture products using recycled steel. (Learn more here.)

Many of the outputs of our processes can be put to sustainable use. From the operations of our electric arc furnace (EAF), we produce three valuable co-products: steel dust, millscale, and slag. Steel dust is separated and analyzed, and may be resold to recover zinc, reducing virgin zinc mining and production. Similarly, millscale supports the reduction of iron ore mining and production, and slag reduces virgin cement and gravel production.

Given the number of end-of-life vehicles we recycle, our metals yards often handle non-metal materials that cannot be diverted to other recycling streams, such as seat cushions, insulation, glass, foam, and plastics. Once shredded, these mixed materials are referred to as automotive shredder residue (ASR). When possible, we send ASR for beneficial reuse as alternative daily cover (ADC) for landfills. ADC is applied at the end of each day to the active portion of landfills to protect wildlife, minimize dust, deter pests, control odors, and isolate wastes. As many landfills traditionally use topsoil as daily cover, using ASR effectively conserves topsoil and prevents the environmental impacts associated with topsoil mining. ASR is also more compactable than soil, which means that its use conserves landfill space. In fiscal 2020, 93 percent of ASR generated by our operations was beneficially used as ADC. As a result of all these diversion strategies—and the overall recycling focus of our business—the amount of material we send to landfills is negligible compared with the amount of material we divert from landfills.

Shredder Residue Generated for
Beneficial Re-use as ADC1
(Metric Tons)

1 This graph shows normalized values against the
sum of metric tons of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap shipped.

Steel Dust Generated for
Zinc Recovery2
(Metric Tons)

2 This graph shows normalized values against metric tons of finished steel.