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Steel can industry struggles to survive against aluminum.

Steel can industry struggles to survive against aluminum

Following in the steps of the the Edsel and those glittery disco balls, the steel can industry has begun to feel the effects of possible exstinction.

Once a major figure in the $6.25 billion market for beverage containers in the 1970s, the steel can industry now controls a paltry $2.6 billion in sales and is slipping every year.

Aluminum and plastic products, analysts say, have taken over the spotlight just as the quicker, faster mammals did millions of years ago when they replaced the sluggish dinosaurs.

Despite the bleak outlook for the industry, some executives believe that there are reasons for the industry's current demise, and look forward to finding a solution to reverse the current trend.

"We think that the steel can industry has been an underachiever," said James Bruhn, vice president for sales and marketing, Weirton Steel Corp. "We had been the incumbent material for so long that we became complacent, but now we're beginning to realize that there are more creative things we can do with steel."

Weirton Corp. employs several engineers, Bruhn commented, who are on a quest to find new methods and new markets for production and distribution of steel containers.

Cans are likely to remain the predominant research focus since 87 percent of the tin mills' production goes to food cans and most of the rest to the fraction of the beverage can market that the industry clings to.

The industry also has formed the Pittsburgh-based Steel Can Recycling Institute, which is attempting to convince municipalities to develop recycling programs that include steel cans. The effective recycling campaign launched by the aluminum industry helped to solidify it dominance in the beverage can industry, Bruhn said.

One area that Weirton Corp.'s engineers have tried to improve is the speed of production to equal that of aluminum manufacturers. The Weirton research center currently produces 13 steel cans from one pound of tin plate (steel coated with tin), up from 10 cans three years ago, but substantially below the 27 cans produced from a pound of sheet aluminum, reports indicate.
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Title Annotation:beverage containers
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Sep 18, 1989
Previous Article:June taxable removals down.
Next Article:1st half aluminum can shipments jump 6.4%.

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