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Scrap steel is a vital raw material for the production of new steel. The steel industry in the U.S. has been structured to recycle scrap and is therefore highly dependent on this material. The main source of scrap steel is from automobiles. In 2009, the recycling rate of automobiles in the U.S. was approximately 140%, suggesting a significant reduction of the country's car fleet. A recycling rate in excess of 100% means that the steel industry is recycling more steel from automobiles than was used in the domestic production of new vehicles.
Recycling also plays a major role in the conservation of energy because the re-smelting of scrap requires far less energy than the production of steel from iron ore.
North America has been experiencing a shortage of scrap steel due to increased export demand from China, Turkey and Canada. Even significant increased prices for scrap, reaching $367 per t in 2010, has not led to an increase in scrap availability, as recession hit consumers have been keeping and repairing old appliances rather than disposing of them.