Summer 2018 has been extremely busy with the opening of our NEW stevedoring and storage subsidiary, B.L. Duke River Transport (BLDRT). Located on the Des Plaines river adjacent to our Joliet processing facility, BLDRT took over the Gerdau Rolling Mill, adding 250,000 sqft of indoor storage and 30.5 acres with barge and rail access.  The US river system is surprisingly vast.  Barge freight can extend from the East and Gulf coats as far west as Omaha and north to Minnesota and the great lakes.  While the term stevedoring may sound unfamiliar, it has been around for hundreds of years; longshoreman, dockhand and dockworker are all phrases used to describe the loading and unloading of water vehicles. BLDRT will backhaul scrap barges with finished steel product from the mills direct to consumers in the Chicagoland area.

B.L. Duke River Transport offers customers an alternative cost savings transportation method during this difficult logistics climate. In a recent article published by the Daily Herald, the trucking industry has fallen on unprecedented times due to “added regulations, fewer driver hours and even fewer new drivers entering an already depleted industry.” This has caused an almost 40% surge in rates from last year. Utilizing the river system is significantly cheaper, up to four times less expensive, than standard trucking routes (see image). The availability of a facility on the river and the market’s demand of a pricing solution to the rising costs of the trucking industry have positioned BLDRT as an efficient transportation partner.

“BLDRT has the unique opportunity to bridge our mill relationships to service centers and manufactures,” states Kathleen Grady, VP of Business Development.  “Our customers will no longer need to buy barge load quantities to take advantage of the significant cost saving that river freight offers.”  B.L. Duke River Transport has heavy lifting capacity up to 500,000 lbs. and can ship directly to your facility via rail or truck from our convenient location off of I-80, I-355 and I-55. For JIT inventory programs, outdoor and indoor storage is available with climate controlled space coming this winter.

At B.L. Duke, we are always looking for ways to better service our customers whether it’s through technology, communicating industry knowledge or passing along cost saving practices, we continuously strive to revolutionize the scrap metal industry.

B.L. Duke River Transport is Innovation on the Move – call or email us today to find out more: 815-714-8900 or

We’re more than excited to announce B.L. Duke was recognized as one of Crain’s Fast Fifty Companies for 2018! Each year, Crain’s releases its Fast Fifty list, which recognizes Chicago-area companies that have shown significant growth over a five-year period.  This is the second time we’ve made this list; with the first time being in 2015 for growing nearly 300 percent in five years.  Between 2013 and 2017 we’ve grown over 400%!  In 2017, we increased sales revenue by 65% and added 32 employees to our workforce.

We’ve had so many exciting happenings in the last year, it’s hard to keep up.  This year we were also named a finalist for the 2018 American Metal Market’s Steel Excellence Awards in the Scrap Metal Company of the Year category. In addition, we recently completed plans to double our footprint with the acquisition of the Gerdau Rolling Mill next to our Joliet campus, which will allow us to plan for additional products and services that will pass on even more cost-savings and conveniences to our customers. Check out our NEW division B.L. Duke River Transport, which offers stevedoring and indoor/outdoor storage services for your finished steel product. With our prime location on the Des Plaines River in the Chicagoland area, BLDRT provides cost-saving transportation efficiencies through transloading to rail or truck direct to your facility.  On July 30th, we also announced the Grand Opening of our over the scale business in Joliet and are now open to the public.

Lou Plucinski, President & CEO

“It’s truly an honor to be named among the impressive list of honorees across many thriving industries,” said B.L. Duke President & CEO Lou Plucinski. “Hands down, this recognition is the direct result of the hard work of our team. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished together as a company in the past few years.”

For more information or a list of services you can check out our website at or call 773-778-3000 and ask to speak to a sales team member.

We couldn’t be more excited to announce the launch of our new wholly owned subsidiary, B.L. Duke River Transport. Our new division will focus on stevedoring services with both indoor and outdoor storage. It gives us the ability to transload finished steel product, including coils, bar stock, rebar, wire, and structural steel, to rail or truck from barges coming from mills along the river systems and imports. According to this week’s AMM article, B.L. Duke adds steel terminal services, with trucking rates and availability becoming increasingly inhibitive, B.L. Duke will continue to grow it’s barge and rail services not only as a means to control our own logistics costs but now as a diversification strategy and new revenue source.

“We’re always looking for new ways to strengthen our services and improve cost-savings for our customers,” said Lou Plucinski, B.L. Duke’s President & CEO. “This expansion allows us to help link mills with our customers and suppliers and illustrates just one more way we’re revolutionizing the recycling industry.”

B.L. Duke River Transport will be housed on our recently acquired site of the former Gerdau Rolling Mill property at 1 Industry Avenue, Joliet, Illinois. The property is conveniently located adjacent to our Scrap Metal processing facility in Joliet, equipped with barge and rail terminals. With 30.5 acres and a 250,000 square foot warehouse, this will nearly double our footprint to almost 64 acres. The new location is significantly closer to Chicagoland’s industrial areas compared to Indiana ports. In addition, the new site is in close proximity to several major highways and rail terminals, including I-55, I-80, and I-355.

“With trucking rates and availability becoming increasingly inhibitive, we will continue to grow our barge and rail services not only as a means to control our own logistics costs but now as a diversification strategy and new revenue source,” said Plucinski.

The new division comes after our continued growth and success in 2017. Last year, we increased our sales revenue by 65% and added 32 employees to our team. We were even named a finalist for the 2018 American Metal Market’s Steel Excellence Award in the Scrap Company of the Year category!

“You can bet that we have even more plans in store for 2018. We’re excited to expand our scrap-metal processing capabilities and strengthen our relationships with both mills and our customer base,” said Plucinski.

Contact us today at to find out how B.L. Duke River Transport can help transload and store your finished goods!

We here at B.L. Duke are pleased to announce that we have been named a finalist for the 2018 American Metal Market’s Steel Excellence Awards in the Scrap Metal Company of the Year category. Winners will be announced on June 26, 2018 at The Edison Ballroom in New York City, New York.

“We’ve worked hard over the years to deliver outstanding customer service and revolutionize the scrap metal recycling business,” said our President & CEO, Lou Plucinski. “It’s an honor to be named a finalist among so many great companies in the industry.”

Every year, American Metal Market recognizes the highest achieving companies in the steel industry for innovation and initiative across multiple categories. This year’s finalists total 53 companies across 15 categories. Finalists were selected by senior American Metal Market editors, and those entries will be scored by steel industry veterans who serve as judges to select the winners. B.L. Duke is the only finalist from the Chicago-land area. Other finalists in the Scrap Metal Company of the Year category include Ferrous Processing & Trading Company, Liberty Iron & Metal Inc, PSC Metals, Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc, Sims Brothers Recycling, Triple M Metal LP, and W Silver Recycling Inc.

“We have big plans in store for 2018,” states Marissa Plucinski, VP of Sales. “They include innovative technology and additional scrap processing capabilities that deliver excellent customer service and unbeatable pricing.”

This recognition comes after a year of continued innovation and growth for us. In 2017, we increased sales revenue by 65% and added 32 employees to our workforce. In addition, we recently completed plans to double our footprint with the acquisition of the Gerdau Rolling Mill next to our Joliet campus, which will allow us to plan for additional products and services that will pass on even more cost-savings and conveniences to our customers.

For more information or a list of services you can check out our website at or call 773-778-3000 and ask to speak to a sales team member.

2018 Economic Outlook

I attended the Precision Metalforming Association’s(PMA) 2018 Economic Outlook presentation by William A. Strauss on February 23, 2018. William is a Senior Economist and Economic Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

It is worth it to note that this presentation was delivered before the Section 232 announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States on March 1st, 2018 by President Donald Trump. These tariffs between 10% and 25% could have a significant impact on the forecasted projections.

In 2017, the United States Real Gross Domestic Product(GDP) expanded by 2.5%. The Midwest economy is growing above trend in-line with the national economy. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is predicting the GDP to grow just above trend in 2018 and then with trend in 2019 & 2020. With the GDP expanding we saw the real value of the stock market reaching new highs.

While we are seeing the expanding GDP and stock market highs, we are also seeing a restrained recovery path of the Business Cycle compared to previous deep recessions. Recovery from both the 1974-75 and 1982-82 recessions saw an average annualized growth of 4.3%, while we are currently seeing an average annualized growth of 2.2%. Even with a lower average of annualized growth compared to previous deep recessions we are still seeing a low probability of a recession within the next two quarters. A growing GDP is an important indicator for the steel makers. An expanding GDP is illustrating a positive demand for the automotive industry, energy sectors and construction industry.

Source: William Strauss – Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

The Composite Index of the 10 Leading Economic Indicators continue to rise. The leading economic indicators usually change before the economy as a whole changes. They are therefore used as a short-term predictor of the economy. For example, S&P 500 Stock Index returns are a leading indicator. We will see the stock market rise before we see the economy recover from a slump and vice versa. Another leading indicator is Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales which is a primary source of information on the state of business inventories & sales.

The United States employment increased by over 2.1 million jobs over the past year while the nation’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4.1%. With the increase of employment and the falling unemployment rate we are still seeing a significant number of unemployed Americans for more than 27 weeks. Illinois ranked below the United States as whole? Or compared to other states? as well as Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana in regards total employment change from the year prior. Illinois’ unemployment rate is .7% above the national rate. Wages and benefit costs continue to increase at a very slow rate. Slow productivity growth helps explain why even though we have seen a relatively strong employment increase we are not seeing that translate to higher wages.

When analyzing the inflation rate, the FOMC finds that the core personal consumption expenditures(PCE) inflation rate remains low. Core PCE inflation is when volatile components such as food and energy are removed. The FOMC predicts that the core personal consumption expenditure inflation rate will be around it’s target of 2%.

Housing Market Outlook

As for housing, the Blue Chip Housing Starts forecast calls for a continuation of the gradual recovery in housing. The 2017 actual figure was 1,207,000 housing starts in 2017. They are forecasting 2018 to have 1,279,000 housing starts and 2019 to see 1,328,000 housing starts. Housing starts are the beginning of construction on a new house and is used as an economic indicator. Structural steel will see a rise when we see a rise in housing starts.

We are seeing manufacturing output increase after being stagnant the past couple years. As manufacturing output is increasing we are still seeing capacity utilization (manufacturing) stay below full capacity, though moving higher the past year. These trends have led manufacturing employment to increase by 186,000 workers over the past 12 months. The Midwest Economy Index’s manufacturing component is above trend and performing well above that of the nation. This is leading to manufacturing job growth in the Midwest performing above the US.

Vehicle Sales on the Economic Outlook

Light vehicle sales saw record numbers in 2016 but in 2017 we saw a slight dip of 1.4%. Continuing with the trend we saw light truck sales increase by 5% and passenger car sales were 11.4% lower. Alternative power vehicles, including hybrids, hold a very low market share of total sales. Blue Chip Light-Vehicle Sales are forecasting lower. 2017 saw 17,100,000 sales and 2018 is forecasting 17,000,000 with 2019 projecting 16,700,000 sales. US Aluminum foundry alloy premiums rely heavily on demand of the US automotive industry. The premiums started to slow at the beginning of 2018 but demand from large automakers is said to be sustaining the market. Aluminum sheet capacity is poised to grow in 2018.

The industrial sector saw strong output growth over the past several months. We are seeing supply managers’ composite index grow vastly over the past year. Chicago saw a significant reporting increase over the national average. While industrial production is forecast to improve it is likely to improve below it’s historical rate this year.

The Federal Reserve has raised the Federal Funds rate by 1.25% since December 2015. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has been flat for the past several years but the Fed began to reduce it in October of 2017. Reducing the balance sheet is considered, “Policy Normalization”. We can expect to see the Fed rate rise to ‘normal levels’ while security holdings are sold off the balance sheet. This is a sign of the Federal Reserve believing in the strength of the US economy since it slashed interest rates to almost 0% in 2008-2009.

Head to for a list of services, a quote or to schedule a pick up. Follow B.L. Duke on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for news and market updates in the steel and scrap metals industry.

At this time last year, we had a lot to be optimistic about. In 2017, the market rebounded moderately with continued growth after a tough 2016 market.  Now, we are a couple months into the new year  and are predicting a bright 2018 outlook for the scrap metal industry.  Markets kicked off with a generous increase of $30/gt for cuts and $20/gt for primes.  We saw a little sneak preview of a similar boost back in December.  As history shows, January typically tends to be a strong month, while February falls flat.  However, buyers, sellers, and brokers are particularly bullish.

Towards the end of 2017,  Nucor’s DRI (direct-reduced iron) plant in St. James, Louisiana was forced to halt production due to an unforeseen outage.  This forced Nucor to consume more scrap than expected, driving ferrous scrap prices upward.  Recent inclement weather is another reason to give confidence in a forecasted increase.  The Midwest and East Coast were stricken with tough winter conditions within the last month.  Considerable amounts of snow and frigid temperatures made for logistical disasters and a slowdown of operations.  Supplies are low, driving for high demand. According to ISRI (Institute of Scrap Recycling), other factors adding to  an uplifting market are potential trade remedies from Section 232 steel investigation and other trade cases, steel production cutbacks in China, recovering iron ore prices, healthy domestic order books, and the new corporate tax cuts.

2018 scrap metal outlook

Heading into the new year, the biggest concern in the scrap industry seems to be China’s ban on scrap imports.  Mid 2017, China caused an uproar by announcing their plans to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to tighten their threshold of impurities on scrap imports, unlike the rest of the world that follows the global standard.  “ISRI is very disappointed to see the Chinese government finalizing its Environmental Protection Control Standards and failing to take the opportunity to bring them in line with global standards that reflect manufacturing requirements and are utilized by environmentally responsible recycling operations in the US and around the world,” ISRI president Robin Wiener said in a statement.  There are still many questions and doubt heading into the new year regarding the ban.  Learn more about China’s ban on our last blog post.

The Midwest Chicago market saw another change recently when the January AMM was released with “Historical” and “Expanded” pricing.  The change was put in place to start including 3 Indiana mills and an Iowa mill to justify logistical differences.  Both numbers will be released for the next 6 months, then will be down to one “expanded” category come June 30, 2018.  The new category will be listed the way it always has been, as “Chicago“.  Though expanded prices are showing higher right now, we believe sooner rather than later the prices will end up aligning, before the 6 month period is over.


“All of the fundamentals are in place to ensure a strong half of 2018!  Additionally, with hot band futures pushing north of $740,  it will be difficult for mills to justify pushing the scrap market down.”

What are your thoughts on the 2018 steel market? Comment below!

China bans scrap metal

What Now, China?

Recently there has been uproar in the recycling industry and to be candid, we didn’t think this news would have such an effect on the Scrap Metal Industry.  In July, China proposed a new ban at the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Although the ban hasn’t gone into affect, the world is experiencing some significant disruptions. How will this impact the global economy and most importantly, what will it do to the Metals Industry?

What is the “Big Ban”?

According to The Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries (ISRI), there are two important parts to this ban. First and foremost, the proposed ban limits or prohibits 24 different imported materials into China. Most are solid waste, such as paper, plastics, slag, waste wool, ash, cotton, and yarn. The second part of the ban includes a “carried waste” threshold, and this is the part the Metals Industry needs to pay close attention to. China’s proposed draft of the ban includes a 0.03% “carried waste” threshold on all imports into the country. Carried threshold meaning the contaminants and prohibitive materials that are commonly mixed in with recyclables, including scrap metal. Currently, the global standard is 0.05-5.0%.  The ban also mentions a proposed 80% weight requirement on all metal and electrical appliance scrap and the current global standard is a 50% threshold.

scrap metal recycling ban

Why The Ban?

According to China, the ban and the proposed carried waste threshold are in efforts to replace foreign materials with domestically generated material. China claims they want to reform their import system to protect the health of their citizens and environmental interests. To date, Chinese authorities have yet to divulge any specific details.  Many exporters are uncertain whether the ban includes their materials, such as certain plastics, slag, mixed paper.

After the announcement, the WTO requested China release more specific details. In response, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has released a draft of changes of some technical specifications. For imported scrap, stricter regulations on impurities, weight requirements for metal and electrical appliance scraps. However, many unanswered questions remain.

metal recycling industry

Recycling Industry – USA

For non-metallics, China’s ban on paper and plastic would affect 18% or $532 million of USA scrap. The scrap trade to China is worth $6.5 billion annually and impacts 150,000 US jobs. Currently, 40% of the USA’s total exported scrap goes to China. The plan would essentially affect all mixed metals, especially scrap products that must be dismantled, such as cable, scrap wires and scrap motors. With that said, the paper, plastics and copper industries have already been experiencing disruptions in their day to day operations for some time now. Although the ban hasn’t gone into effect, Chinese importers report having trouble securing permits.

According to one of B.L. Duke’s copper consumers, “The Chinese’s recycling restrictions have created complete chaos!  We currently have 500 containers stuck in a port held up by Chinese Customs.”  

China accounts for more than half of the world’s total scrap imports and this ban won’t only affect the United States economy but the world economy.


ISRI to the Rescue?

After China’s vague announcement at the WTO, ISRI immediately spoke up and voiced their concerns. ISRI has urged China to specify the difference between the term “waste” and “scrap”.

“ISRI is extremely concerned with the reduction of the control requirement for ‘carried waste’ to 0.3% for all commodities,” wrote ISRI President Robin Wiener in the letter. “The application of this standard will effectively result in a ban on the importation of all these commodities. It is simply not possible to achieve such a control level, nor is it possible to even measure it with such accuracy.”

“In the United States, a 50% threshold is used when defining what is considered legitimate scrap metal for recycling. For consistency in the global trade, we would respectfully request that a uniform standard of 50% be used within China as well,” Wiener wrote.

Final Thoughts

Many recycling experts, including ISRI, are very concerned how China can possibly measure 0.03% and place such tight controls on imports. According to the Bureau of International Recycling, restrictions on scrap imports into China will become more and more aggressive as time goes on. Many leaders understand what China is trying to do environmentally, but there needs to be consistent threshold for fair global trade and ISRI plans to fight the ban.

The biggest take away is China’s need to have clearer details and specifications of the ban. In the immediate future, the Metals Industry needs to be alert and keep a close watch on the proposed “quality threshold” specifications.

This month we are proud to be celebrating our 17th anniversary! Today, more than ever, we are laser focused on our mission.  “We are revolutionizing the recycling industry through technology and transportation efficiencies to drive responsiveness and maximize client value.”  The following video features our Joliet yard and showcases our growth and capabilities.

“Looking back at the last 17 years I’m most proud of the B.L. Duke team.” states Lou Plucinski, President of B.L. Duke.  “We’ve adapted to the most challenging market conditions and continued to grow to become one of the top leaders in the industry.”

Since 2000, we’ve taken an integrated personalized recycling approach.  Today, we are able to offer our customers greater value than ever before.  We owe this success to our two convenient scrap processing locations and our new state of the art technology system, allowing us to be transparent through real-time load tracking.

Within the last year of the Joliet expansion, it’s abundantly clear why this move has set us apart in the industry. Our processing and freight capabilities, visibly highlighted in our new video, are the reasons behind this success.  This facility coupled with the tenacity of our team will drive our growth into the next phase of B.L. Duke.

Reach out to us if you are interested in touring our Joliet yard in person!

About B.L. Duke
B.L. Duke is an industry leading scrap metal recycling company in Chicago. Established in 2000, B.L. Duke has revolutionized the Chicago recycling industry through technology and transportation efficiencies to drive responsiveness and maximize client value. For a fresh look at your metal recycling program, contact B.L. Duke at 773.778.3000 or



UPDATE:  We’re very excited to announce we surpassed our goal and we were able to donate $2,470 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation!  Thank you to everyone who came out to participate in our Tacos for Ta-Ta’s fundraiser.

B.L. Duke Supports Breast Cancer Research

***NEW DATE***
Friday, November 3rd

B.L. Duke’s Forest View Scrap Yard
6400 West Canal Bank Road, Forest View, IL
7AM – Coffee & Donuts
11AM-1PM – Taco Truck
Free giveaways and raffles!

We can’t believe it’s that time of year again!  Every October, B.L. Duke is grateful that we have the opportunity to stand up to breast cancer.  This cause is near and dear to me, as I’m currently battling breast cancer for the second time.  Over the last three years, B.L. Duke has gone above and beyond to personally support me and others who are affected by breast cancer.  I appreciate my work family’s support and am inspired by the newest member of our team who is also a breast cancer survivor.

Breast Cancer Fundraiser on 10/20

This year, we’re raising money in a new way with our Pink Lady (pictured above).  We’re excited to announce our Tacos for Ta-Ta’s party to help raise funds for breast cancer research!  The event will take place at our Forest View, IL Ferrous Processing yard on November 3rd between 7AM-5PM.  B.L. Duke has pledged to donate 20% of the day’s profits from our retail business to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  Tacos for Ta-Ta’s will start out with breakfast donuts and coffee followed by a taco truck that will serve lunch!  There will also be free giveaways for those who participate and help us stand up to breast cancer.

Since 1993, over 10 million hours of research has been funded by BCRF.  As a patient currently enrolled in a clinical trial, I’ve learned to appreciate the latest and greatest opportunities that are only possible from hours of cancer research.  We’re looking forward to filling up our Pink Lady with TONS of scrap metal for a great cause!

For more information on the Tacos for Ta-Ta’s party and how you can donate, contact us at or 773-778-3000.

B.L. Duke delivers customized recycling programs with game-changing efficiencies. Established in 2000, the company has revolutionized the recycling industry delivering customized programs that streamline operations and save customers time and money. Learn more about B.L. Duke at

Scrap Metal Recycling Efficicies Improved by Barge Transportation

The addition of barge transportation is an example of how B.L. Duke is revolutionizing Chicago’s metal recycling industry and maximizing our customer’s value.  The opening of B.L. Duke’s second yard, located in Joliet, IL has added to the company’s success in the past year.  “This was the largest expansion project in our company’s history,” states Lou Plucinski, President of B.L. Duke.  Our 25 acres expand B.L. Duke’s array of logistics to now include dual barge docks, dual rail spurs in addition to our trucking services.  Barge access has reduced transportation cost and created operational efficiencies, facilitating new consumers in stronger markets, all, making B.L. Duke more competitive and driving our customer’s value.

“Logistics are B.L. Duke’s largest variable expense,” states Plucinski, “minimizing this cost was paramount as it gives us a competitive advantage in the Chicago industrial market.”  Moving material via barge has cut our transportation cost significantly.  For example, it costs over $100/NT to move material via truck to Mobile, AL but only $25/NT via barge.  The savings allows us to maximize our customer’s value and offer them a more competitive price.

Barge Transportation Improves Scrap Metal Recycling

Barge accessibility also creates operational efficiencies by reducing trucking, which improves material flow and adds to our material handling efficiency.  One barge is equal to 17 railcars or 75 truck-loads.  Not only are we cutting costs by limiting trucking but by also reducing time, and making transportation more efficient.  These efficiencies reduce environmental emissions, making B.L. Duke a greener company; another example how B.L. Duke is revolutionizing the metal recycling industry.

Unlike other Chicago based scrap recycling companies, barge access has allowed B.L. Duke to expand our reach by adding new consumers in stronger markets.  We have created new scrap homes along the Mississippi, Ohio Valley, Gulf Coast and export markets.   We are moving material via barge to places as close as Peoria, IL and Muscatine, IA as well as down south to New Orleans, LA and Mobile, AL.  The opportunities are endless when it comes to the efficiency of moving scrap metal via barge.

Contact us today at 773.778.3000 or to learn how our operational efficiencies will add value to your metal recycling program.