Silver Recycling Volumes Forecast To Stagnate Over The Next Three Years — Even If Prices Rally Significantly

September 9, 2015

The Silver Institute today released “Silver Scrap: The Forgotten Fundamental,” a report produced by Metals Focus, the London-based independent precious metals research consultancy, on behalf of the Silver Institute. The study provides detailed information on recycling broken down by region and by five sectors: industrial end uses, photography, jewelry, silverware and coins. This analysis then forms the bedrock for the forecast in scrap volumes out to 2017 and how those volumes might vary with price.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Silver recycling is projected to decline to 178.0 Moz (5,536t) by 2017. This is 14% lower than the 2011 peak, as growth is only expected to average 3% a year, even if prices rally to over $20. This outlook is based on further losses in photographic scrap, a depleted pool of near-market silverware and a limited response from most industrial end-uses.
  • The study found that scrap from industrial sources is the largest segment, accounting for around half the total last year. A key finding was the low level of recovery from the vast majority of end-uses, as highly fragmented ownership and low silver contents often make recovery uneconomic.  The main exception is the substantial and growing volumes coming from ethylene oxide (EO) catalysts.
  • Silverware is the second biggest source of silver scrap supply, with an 18% share of the 2014 total. This large slice was mainly ascribed to a sizable pool of product and a comparatively high value per piece.  By contrast, silver jewelry recycling is modest, despite higher consumption today, as consumers appear to be content to hold on to a still fashionable metal and resale is less valuable.
  • The report notes that photographic scrap remains in marked structural decline as a lagged result of the digitally-led fall in its fabrication since a peak in the late 1990s. However, still sizable volumes of recycling of old x-rays helped this sector achieve 16% of the 2014 scrap total.
  • The West, in particular North America, dominates recycling today, with 53% of last year’s total. Chinese scrap was, however, noted to be growing fast, with its share on target for almost 20% by 2017, largely as a result of gains in industrial recycling.
  • The report isolates four main drivers of silver recycling: the silver price; the scale of a products’ stocks; the degree to which ownership is fragmented and, lastly, environmental legislation in conjunction with its enforcement and voluntary compliance.

“The report illustrates the fact that one of the major contributors to the silver supply complex, scrap supply, has been shrinking, and is forecast to grow only modestly in the near term, further underscoring the strong fundamentals of the silver market,” stated Michael DiRienzo, Executive Director of the Silver Institute.


The Silver Institute is a nonprofit international industry association headquartered in Washington, D.C. Established in 1971, the Institute’s members include leading silver producers, prominent silver refiners, manufacturers and dealers.  The Institute serves as the industry’s voice in increasing public understanding of the many uses of silver, and also creates programs across many platforms that benefit the white metal. For more information on the Silver Institute, or silver in general, please visit:

Metals Focus is one of the leading precious metals consultancies. They specialize in research into the global gold, silver, platinum and palladium markets, producing regular reports, forecasts and bespoke consultancy. Metals Focus can be reached at

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