As mining costs have risen in recent years, in tandem with the world’s rising consumption of metal, there has been a dramatic change in the way companies source raw materials. Prices have soared – copper alone has more than tripled in value in the last decade. As a result, electronic products made in China now contain up to 80% recycled copper, recovered from old mobile phones, computers and TVs. Recycling metals is a profitable business – which is where Britain’s Tandom Metallurgical Group comes in. _x000D_
The Cheshire company was founded in 2008 when managing director Tom Muir, 57, and commercial director Andrew Lumsden, 48 – with nearly 60 years of sector experience between them – merged their two recycling companies. The following year they sold a 30% stake in the business to American technology company Chinook Sciences, and used the capital to buy the Congleton premises of one of the largest aluminium ingot producers in Britain.
A third of Tandom’s £58m turnover is generated from processing metal from scrapped cars into ingots of aluminium, some of which are exported to the continental automotive industry. Last year, the company expanded its Congleton facility and invested £2m in new equipment, and can now produce more than 700 tons of alloy a week.
The larger part of its business is scrap metal trading – Tandom buys used drinks cans, electronic components and aluminium scrap. It began trading overseas when it bought its Congleton plant, though exports were only £1m in 2011 when Nick Rose, 43, joined as trading director to drive international sales. Today the majority of exports, which reached £21.9m in 2013, are scrap cables and electronics, shipped to processors in China and India, which extract copper and other metals to sell to local manufacturers. Muir says this mix helps to spread business risk as these sectors are less vulnerable to a downturn than the car industry. _x000D_
China is the world’s largest metals recycler and, says Muir, Tandom could easily export 10 times as much scrap to the country as it does currently, if only it could source enough suitable metal.
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