Cascade Alliance

Potential Impacts of Steel and Aluminum Tariffs on Waste and Recycling


Saint Vincent de Paul staff members at our Woodland facility

Waste Dive took a look last week at how a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum might impact the waste and recycling industries. Authors Kim Slowey and Code Boteler write that prices for domestic steel and aluminum are likely to increase, so domestic recyclers could get higher prices for their products.

That’s a short-term potential impact, says Terry McDonald, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, which sells about 5,000 tons of various kinds of scrap metal into secondary markets each year.

“Tariffs make a lot of money on the short term and then totally crash,” Terry says. Counter-tariffs by other countries make it hard for local manufacturers who need the steel and aluminum to make their products but have to pay more for it. The Waste Dive writers shared a spending report by the Association of General Contractors of America noting that higher prices resulting from the tariffs could stymie infrastructure investment, too. The Washington Post on March 6 offers a look at tariff winners and losers. Their analysis doesn’t go deep enough to consider recyclers, but confirms the likelihood of retaliatory tariffs, with American blue jean manufacturers and bourbon distilleries that export to Europe likely to feel the consequences.

It’s early days yet and the president hasn’t imposed those tariffs, but we’ll see the results across the Cascade Alliance members selling mattress springs and appliances.