Schnitzer is a global leader in the collection, processing, and sale of the world's most recycled product: steel. Through our integrated operating platform, we process scrap metal and we manufacture finished steel products from our own scrap metal. Properly handled, scrap metal is a continuous and valuable resource that can be re-melted and reshaped into new products countless times while providing significant economic and environmental benefits as compared to virgin materials. We recycle metals ranging from iron and steel to aluminum, copper, lead, stainless steel and zinc. Schnitzer provides the complete cycle of reuse across our company:
Since our founding in 1906 Schnitzer has grown into a global leader in metals recycling through a combination of organic investments and acquisitions which provide state-of-the-art processing, manufacturing and information technologies. Today, Schnitzer operates 105 recycling facilities, including seven deep water ports – on both U.S. coasts and in Hawaii and Puerto Rico – which enable efficient delivery of processed scrap metals to steel mills and foundries around the world. A fundamental driver of our business is the global demand for recycled metal which has been increasing due to advances in processing technologies and significant environmental benefits. We collect scrap metal in North America, processing it for reuse and selling it to steel mills and foundries globally. From emerging to developed markets, our unique and flexible platform supports the world's economic growth.
Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. has corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon and has traded on the NASDAQ Stock Market under the symbol SCHN since its IPO in 1993. The company has paid a dividend every quarter since its public listing.
As one of the nation's largest recyclers of scrap metal, Schnitzer's metals recycling facilities collect, broker, process and recycle metal, both ferrous (containing iron) and nonferrous (not containing iron). Our integrated platform enables the delivery of processed metals to steel mills and foundries around the world for new production due to our strategically located facilities. Continuous capital investments in advanced technologies provide high quality, operationally efficient scrap metal processing.
We purchase scrap metals from the Western U.S. and Canada, Hawaii, Alaska, the New England states, the Southeast and Puerto Rico. Our proximity to large industrial suppliers and railways, deep water ports and major highways provides us with strong sources of supply and a competitive advantage to deliver processed scrap metal wherever demand is greatest.
Scrap metal is purchased from industrial manufacturers, railroads, auto salvage facilities, metal dealers and individuals. The metal typically comes from obsolete machinery and equipment such as autos, railroad cars, railroad tracks, home appliances and demolition metal from buildings and other obsolete structures. As part of our vertical integration, we also purchase crushed auto bodies from our auto recycling facilities. Purchased scrap arrives at our metals recycling facilities daily by ship, barge, rail, truck, car and even individuals on foot.
Once the scrap metal arrives at one of our yards, it is processed by sorting, shearing, shredding, torching and baling. This results in metal pieces of a size, density and purity specified by steel mills and foundries for melting and use in the production of new steel and other metal products. Smaller, more homogeneous pieces of processed metal have more value because they are more easily utilized in new metal production.
One of the most efficient ways to process metal is to use shredding systems. A shredder reduces auto bodies, home appliances and other metal into fist-sized pieces in seconds. Shredded material is then carried by conveyor under magnetized drums which attract the ferrous materials and separate them from the nonferrous materials. The remaining nonferrous metal is further sorted and graded before being sold. Recycled metals are sold to domestic and foreign customers, including our Steel Manufacturing Business which purchases recycled ferrous metals to produce new steel. We ship to customers via bulk cargo ships, barges, railroad cars and trucks. We achieve cost efficiencies from our export facilities at seven deep water ports and locations close to major railroads and highways. Our recycling facilities have an aggregate processing capability of more than 5 million tons of ferrous metal and 600 million pounds of nonferrous metal annually.
We invest continually in our facilities to maximize cost efficiencies, to deliver the highest quality products and to ensure regulatory and environmental compliance. We operate mega-shredders at our export processing facilities in Oakland, CA; Everett, MA; Portland, OR and Tacoma, WA. Mega-shredders shred more efficiently, process a greater range of materials, and produce an end product which is denser and can be used more efficiently by steel mills. In conjunction with new state-of-the-art nonferrous metals recovery systems, mega-shredders improve the recoverability of valuable nonferrous metals such as aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel, and zinc. Capital improvements and investment in new technologies have also been made to upgrade our facilities for fossil fuel conservation and to utilize clean and reliable electricity.
Our strategy is focused on enhancing the inherent synergies in our auto and metals recycling facilities and with our steel mill. Our auto parts stores are key suppliers to our metals recycling facilities and we expect to continue to grow in core regions where we have a significant market presence and competitively advantageous port access. We look to grow through joint ventures that provide us additional opportunities for recycling metals and other materials. These businesses provide metals recycling facilities; removal and disposition of surplus railroad assets (such as railroad track); and demolition, dismantling and environmental remediation services.
Schnitzer operates Pick-n-Pull, one of the nation's premier self-service used auto parts networks dedicated to supplying customers with low-cost, quality used auto parts. Pick-n-Pull has 55 auto recycling facilities in 15 U.S. states and Canada as well as an online inventory for customers to rapidly locate specific vehicles and track availability of parts.
We purchase approximately 350,000 used and salvaged vehicles annually from tow companies, private parties, auto auctions, city contracts and charitable organizations. After the autos are properly drained of fluids and hazardous materials are removed, the autos are then set in our well-organized yards for customers to select and pull valuable parts. We also sell some vehicles as "rebuilders." Over five million customers visit annually, from do-it-yourself retail customers to recreational mechanics, professional rebuilders, entrepreneurial business owners, volume resellers and collision repair shops.
Each facility stocks a large number of domestic and foreign cars, vans and light trucks which are continually replaced by new arrivals to offer our customers a wide and fresh selection of parts from which to choose. The customer pays a nominal admission fee, finds a vehicle with the desired parts and removes the part with their own tools, or using our wheelbarrows and engine hoists. After a vehicle has finished its time in the retail area, our staff removes remaining recyclable nonferrous materials and valuable core parts that can be sold wholesale such as engines, transmissions and alternators. The remaining auto body is crushed and sold as ferrous scrap metal to metal recyclers, including our metals recycling facilities.
Our vehicle disposal process recycles everything we possibly can. Countless parts are purchased by retail and wholesale customers as a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to purchasing from traditional parts sources. Parts that can be refurbished (i.e. transmissions, alternators, compressors) are sold for remanufacturing. Many vehicle fluids including gasoline and oil are recycled. Ferrous and nonferrous metals are recycled and sold to steel mills and foundries for new products. All of this reuse reduces the amount of virgin materials needed to create new products as well as the energy needed to create them.
Environmental compliance and conservation is a priority. We have implemented standardized policies and procedures at all locations for managing vehicles and disposing of hazardous wastes. In fact, our best practices set many of the standards adopted by local communities as guidelines for others to follow.
All of these efforts taken together protect the environment, beautify our neighborhoods and reduce the cost of new goods by returning valuable scrap metal to new production.
Schnitzer's Steel Manufacturing Business purchases recycled metal through our Auto and Metals Recycling facilities business and re-melts it into high-quality finished steel products. Operating as Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, we produce a wide range of products at our state-of-the-art mini-mill including reinforcing bar (rebar), coiled reinforcing bar, wire rod, merchant bar and other specialty products. Our mini-mill is the only one in the Western U.S. that can obtain all its recycled metal through its own affiliated metal recycling operations. We have an annual operating capacity of up to 800,000 tons of finished products.
Cascade Steel's electric arc furnace (EAF) is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional blast furnaces. Processed scrap is melted by the EAF and then cast into semi-finished goods called billets. On-site rolling mills convert the billets into the finished products, primarily reinforcing bar and wire rod.
Cascade Steel sells to customers primarily located in the 10 western states and Canada from its mill in McMinnville, OR (near Portland) and a distribution center in El Monte, CA (near Los Angeles). Our mill has direct access to rail service and close proximity to major highways and deep draft marine terminals in Portland for cost-effective transportation. Typical customers are steel service centers, construction industry subcontractors, steel fabricators, wire drawers and major farm and wood product suppliers. In addition, Cascade is the only mill in the Western U.S. with the ability to produce products for the nuclear construction industry as it is Nuclear Quality Assurance (NQA) certified.
Our steel manufacturing process begins in the melt shop with the melting of scrap metal in our electric arc furnace. The molten steel is then tested and refined in our ladle refining furnace into the precise quality of steel needed. Our melt shop's enhanced steel chemistry refining capabilities allow us to produce special alloy grades of steel not currently produced by other mills on the West Coast. Finally, molten steel is casted into long bars called billets in our five-strand continuous billet caster. These billets are the raw material of the rolling mill portion of the process that follows.
Our facilities include two computerized rolling mills that allow for synchronized operation of the rolling mills and related equipment. The billets produced in the melt shop are reheated in two natural gas furnaces into a plastic-like state and then hot-rolled through one of the two rolling mills to form them into the desired shapes to produce the desired finished products.
We pride ourselves in the quality of our products, our competitive pricing and our exceptional customer service. To maintain our competitive edge, we are frequently investing in improvements to our facilities and our technology. For example, we have developed rebar products that feature a patented corrosion-resistant, high-strength steel technology licensed from our partner, MMFX Technologies Corporation.
Sustainability starts with our business model. Recycling metal instead of using virgin ore to create new steel products saves energy and natural resources. By using recycled metals, the steel industry saves enough energy each year to power 18 million households. Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. Creating products from recycled steel instead of virgin ore uses 40% less water and reduces mining wastes by 97%. Also, because of the high percentage of recycled content and high reclamation rate our products are ideally suited for LEED building projects, significantly contributing to LEED certification.
However, sustainability doesn't end with our business model. We are constantly working on reducing our environmental footprint. Over the years, we've improved our processes and controls, invested capital to increase our efficiency and decrease our energy use and fostered a culture of resourcefulness and accountability. For many years, we've shown that it is possible to operate profitably while maintaining a focus on sustainability and being responsible stewards of our environment.