Recycling Facts

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By Rox Peña


Thursday, March 6, 2014

LAST week, I wrote a little about the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) in my topic on waste importation. Because of the Institute's involvement in international trading of scraps, they have data on actual recovery and use of scrap materials in the United States. Just to appreciate how much is recovered and used, and to know how big the recycling industry is, here are some facts from ISRI's latest report.

Here are the most common scrap materials that are recovered and traded:

PAPER: The United States recovered 51.1 million tons of paper in 2012 and this accounts for 65.1 percent of the paper consumed in the United States. Around 91 percent of corrugated containers (Carton) and 70 percent of the newspapers consumed were recovered in 2012. Paper processing was an $8.4 billion industry in the United States.


Some 22.3 million tons of recovered paper was exported in 2012 including 2.4 million tons of printed news, 10.7 million tons of corrugated cardboard, 4.6 million tons of mixed paper, 723,000 thousand of high-grade paper and 2.4 million tons of other mechanical paper.

Recovered paper is exported to 85 countries including: Canada, China, India, South Korea, Mexico and the Philippines.

PLASTIC: In 2011, an estimated 1 billion lbs. (455 thousand tons) of post-consumer plastic film were collected for recycling, a 55 percent increase since 2005. Composite lumber is the primary end market for post-consumer plastic film. In 2012, the US exported more than $930 million in plastic scrap. In 2011, 4.5 billion lbs. of post consumer plastic including bottles, bags, film, and non-bottle rigid plastics were recycled in the U.S.

IRON AND STEEL: Steel is the most recycled material both in the United States and worldwide. In the United States alone, 75 million metric tons of iron and steel (ferrous) scrap was processed by the scrap recycling industry last year, more than 55 percent of the volume of all domestically processed material. Obsolete ferrous scrap is recovered from automobiles, steel structures, household appliances, railroad tracks, ships, farm equipment, and other sources.

In 2012, the U.S. ferrous scrap industry, was valued at $30.1 billion. On average, the United States processes enough ferrous scrap daily, by weight, to build 25 Eiffel Towers every day of the year. In 2012, the U.S. scrap industry recycled more than 55 million metric tons of ferrous metal.

The United States is the largest exporter of ferrous scrap in the world. In 2012, more than 20 million metric tons of ferrous scrap—valued at more than $9 billion—was exported to approximately 90 countries, including China, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, Canada, and India.

NON-FERROUS METALS (aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, zinc) : In 2012, the U.S. scrap industry processed (exports plus domestic recycled) 5.4 million metric tons of Aluminum, 2.0 million metric tons of copper, 1.2 million metric tons of lead, 240,000 metric tons of zinc, 2 million tons of nickel/stainless steel. The United States exported nearly $14 billion worth of nonferrous scrap to more than 90 countries in 2012, including China, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Belgium, India, and Germany.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 07, 2014.


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