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Whether the weather is good or bad, it’s one of many factors that play a part in the scrap metal industry. Fluctuations in temperature and precipitation can lead to fluctuations in the prices of the metals the industry is after. How does weather affect scrap metal prices, exactly? It depends on the time of year.

Warm Weather Means Higher Prices

Always a source of stoic wisdom, Midwesterners have developed a certain outlook on the changing of the seasons. The only two seasons in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cleveland are “winter and construction.” When the tough Great Lakes winter finally relents, it’s time for construction crews to go to work on necessary infrastructural repairs. All those neon-orange “Expect Delays” signs can really take the fun out of summer driving, but they can put a few extra dollars in your pocket. With more machinery in motion, demand for parts goes up. That means manufacturers are looking for more industrial scrap metal of all sorts—copper, aluminum, brass, and other nonferrous fare. You can expect these scrap metal prices to rise with the mercury.

Winter Is Steel Recycling Season

The American steel industry isn’t the monolith it used to be. Today, most steel production in America doesn’t come from the sprawling full-service mills that made steel from iron ore and made company towns out of places like Youngstown, Gary, and Pittsburgh. Instead, the industry favors smaller, leaner mills that recapture scrap steel and melt it down into new products. Many of these mills are still located in the historical industrial core of the nation: the Great Lakes and inland Northeast, less favorably called the “Rust Belt.” Winter hits hard here, and poor road conditions can put stress on the supply chain. With steel still in demand, this means that everyone is willing to pay a little more for steel scrap. Steel doesn’t always pay well—recyclers pay not by the pound but by the ton—but the dead of winter can provide lucrative opportunities for firms with steel scrap on hand.

How Hurricanes Affect the Industry

While Pittsburgh may still feel like the epicenter of the steel industry, manufacturing this most important alloy is a national project. Hurricane season, along with other heavy storms that hit the Gulf Coast region, play a part in how weather affects scrap metal prices as well. States such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana all have a significant industrial component, and an inability for scrap to reach those destinations can put them out of play. With fewer mills available to process scrap in the wake of such storms, mills back up north will take on that workload—and often pay a premium to do so.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.