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Gerdau Ameristeel - Heavy Metal Recycling

In employee Todd Harig’s estimation, Gerdau Ameristeel Recycling – Fargo exists to close the loop in recycling.

The loop Harig speaks of is the life cycle of metal. Gerdau purchases scrap metal in multiple forms, sorts it, and processes it. Its parent company, Gerdau Ameristeel, is the fourth largest overall steel company and the second largest minimill steel producer in North America. The Fargo yard is one of 19 Gerdau scrap recycling facilities across North America.

Gerdau transforms scrap metal into a form its customers can use. Once it’s sorted, it’s broken down or compacted into the most efficient form for transport. The goal is to maximize the weight limits of various forms of transportation. The scrap metal is cubed, torched or sheared and shipped by either truck freight or rail car along the rail spurs running through the company’s yard.

Paid by the pound, scrap metal sellers range from the ‘peddlers’ who clean up during clean up week and turn a small profit, to industrial companies that regularly supply Gerdau with pounds of metal that has outlived its usefulness. On average, Gerdau’s Fargo facility recycles an amount similar to the weight of 30 to 40 Boeing 747 jet airplanes each month.

Harig says Gerdau receives scrap from more than 120 local businesses on a regular basis. “We deal with many Chamber members such as Phoenix International Corp., Integrity Windows and Doors and Moorhead Public Service (MPS) to name a few.”

“Over the past two years, MPS has sent over 185,000 pounds of steel, copper and aluminum to Gerdau,” says Doug Rogness, communications director at Moorhead Public Service. “This material primarily comes from power lines that have been removed from service. It is nice to have recyclers such as Gerdau to work with right here in town. Having resources such as this has made the work of MPS more efficient.”

“Gerdau recycles automobile radiators and tire rims, tractors and washing machines and everything in between,” says Harig. “It really gives you a different perspective to see the range of metal products that comes through here.”

Gerdau sits on 12 acres along Main Avenue in Fargo. They ship scrap metal from coast to coast, which is recycled (typically re-melted) by mills, and eventually ends up as products which consumers can use again. Such is the case with the new steel Gerdau sells at their Fargo location.

“Where we really shine is fulfilling demand for smaller quantities of new steel,” says Harig. “If you need as little as one foot of iron, come see us.”

Gerdau also fills demand for much larger orders.

Until 2006, Gerdau Ameristeel was known as Fargo Iron & Metal, which incorporated in 1909 and was owned locally by the Paper family. The company ties with BNSF Railway Company as the oldest member of the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead. Harig speaks highly of the new owners.

“It gives me a real sense of pride to see the corporate interest in the employees, the equipment they have purchased for us and the safety programs we’ve implemented for every aspect of the business,” says Harig. “This work is not glamorous by any stretch. It’s hard work, yet we have employees who have put in 30 plus years. The kind of tenure we experience… people don’t stay with a company for that long if they aren’t being treated fairly.”

Harig evidences the fair treatment by explaining how Gerdau gave its Fargo employees four days off with pay during the recent flood.

“They told us to go out and do some good,” says Harig. “No proof required, just an honor system. It speaks volumes.”

According to its Web site,Gerdau Ameristeel’s recycling activities reflect its core value of community and environmental awareness. That is evident as he describes his work that Mr. Harig shares this value.

“It just makes good sense to recycle,” says Harig.

Shredders can reduce a prepared auto body every 15-20 seconds to pieces of metal no bigger than a foot by three inches. Much of the plastic, leather, etc. (referred to as “fluff”) is recycled and reused. All fluids are removed prior to shredding to reduce the environmental impact. Gerdau’s goal is to recycle 92 percent of the vehicles weight. Harig says the mechanized shredding/sorting process is “one of the coolest things he’s ever seen.” The shredder in Selkirk, Manitoba, uses a six thousand horsepower electric motor, and it’s not even the largest one in the Gerdau family.

Gerdau purchases many kinds of metal for recycling:

  • Steel and Iron in all its various forms
  • Aluminum (no beverage cans)
  • Brass
  • Copper (both clean and insulated; tubing and wire)
  • Stainless steel
  • Lead
  • Air conditioner coils
  • End-of-life vehicles (from cars to school busses)
  • Appliances / Sheet Metal
  • Just about anything with recoverable amounts of metal can be recycled. Give them a call if you have any questions, 701.232.2429.

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