KayLynn Roberts-McMurray photo
The low price of scrap metal has kept Outwest Excavation’s owner Paul Holdaway from selling metal from the landfill for about two years.

Many residents have commented about the metal pile at the city landfill getting excessively high, and that the contractor, Paul Holdaway, who handles the recycling of the metal pile has not sold anything for quite some time, so The Ely Times looked further into this story.

A contract was signed in December of 2017 with the City of Ely and  Paul Holdaway dba Outwest Excavation.  Holdaway held a contract from the previous years with the city as well.

It was confirmed with City Attorney Chuck Odgers that nothing from the scrap pile has been sold in approximately two years.

Seems like a very long time right?

A section in the contract states that Holdaway cannot sell the metal for less than $130 a ton. Making it impossible to sell any scrap metal unless the price of metal rises. And, nowhere in the contract is a stipulation stating a time frame of when the metal has to be sold.

The City of Ely has even included an agenda item on this week’s agenda to hold an overpayment in an unmentioned amount made by Holdaway to the city until some of the scrap metal is sold.

So what is the hold up on selling this scrap metal pile? Currently, metal is selling for $65 a ton, which is a huge difference from previous years. The price of metal took a serious downward slide in 2014 when prices dropped by 18 percent, and by 2015, the price of recycled metals dropped by 75 percent.

In 2014 when a beat up car could fetched about $1,000 in scrap, 2014 came along, you were lucky to get $200-$500. 2017 steel prices actually rebounded with the U.S. oil and gas production increasing, but it is still a third of what it was 10 years ago.

When prices are that low it makes it very difficult to afford to truck it, pay a person and fuel the truck. But most people in the industry hold on to it in hopes of higher prices. Holdaway said he was shipping off about 300 tons a year of metal.

“This is an investment for me and the City, at $80-90 a ton to process and ship, anything under that your losing a big profit,” Holdaway said.

Prices change daily during certain seasons when metal is not in demand, the prices drop. Prices can change weekly and can be by a few cents per pound.

Holdaway is leasing two and a half acres at the landfill, and is currently only using a half of an acre of that portion, which doesn’t make that pile look so big when you look at it in that perspective.

But what would happen if there was no recycling of scrap metal? All of that metal would be buried in Class 3, which would severely reduce the life of the landfill.

Scrap metal recycling involves the recovery and processing of scrap metal from end-of-life products or structures, as well as from manufacturing scrap, so that it can be introduced as a raw material in the production of new goods.

Scrap metal recycling involves a number of steps such as recovery, sorting, brokering, baling, shearing and smelting, prolonging the life of the landfill.