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20 Scrap Recycling Industry Statistics and Trends

Scrap recycling includes the recovery of metals and other items from end-of-life products, materials, or structures to create something new. Items within this industry are recycled repetitively without degradation or loss of its properties. That allows new raw materials to be made without using virgin components.

The value of the ferrous scrap industry in the United States is more than $18 billion, while the non-ferrous segment of this sector offers a value of more than $32 billion annually.

Ferrous metals contain at least some iron, while non-ferrous metals do not. Aluminum, copper, nickel, zinc, and tin are the most common non-ferrous metals which are recycled by the scrap industry each year.

The benefits offered by the scrap recycling energy are profound. Recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy, while copper needs 90% less for production. Recycling one ton of steel prevents the use of 2,500 pounds of iron ore and 1,400 pounds of coal.

Important Scrap Recycling Industry Statistics

#1. The scrap recycling industry supports over $116 billion in economic activities each year when the processing of plastics, rubber, textiles, glass, paper, and electronics are included in the revenue figures. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

#2. About 534,000 jobs are created each year because of the scrap recycling industry, with 155,000 of those being direct employment opportunities. Over $34 million in total wages are generated through industry activities each year. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

Scrap Recycling Industry Statistics by Metal Type Value

#3. Over 130 million metric tons of material is processed in the U.S. by the scrap recycling industry each year, with the most significant impacts experienced in California, Texas, and Florida. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

#4. Despite growth in the number of materials processed by the industry, revenues have decreased each year since 2013. The U.S. segment of the scrap recycling industry is contracting at a rate of 2.3% annually. (IBIS World)

#5. Over $13 billion in tax revenues were generated by scrap recyclers in the United States in 2017 for governments at every level. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

#6. More than 122 million tires were processed by the scrap recycling industry in 2015, along with 5 million tons of electronics items, 634,000 tons of plastics, and 47.2 million tons of paper. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

#7. Over 8,000 recycling facilities are operating in the United States right now. The vast majority of them are located east of the Mississippi River, with a majority located in New England. (U.S. Census Bureau)

#8. Over 190 million tons of scrap, with a value of over $80 billion, reached the export markets in 2015. The United States exported about 37 million metric tons of scrap during the year. (UN Comtrade Database)

#9. 70% of the 130 million metric tons of recovered scrap commodities processed in the United States were consumed residentially. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

#10. 47% of the copper products used in the United States each year come from old and new scrap materials. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Scrap Recycling Industry Statistics Showing Economic Impact

#11. China was the top purchaser of recycled scrap materials from the United States in 2015, contributing $6 billion to the market. Canada purchased $2 billion worth of scrap, followed by South Korea ($1 billion), Turkey ($930 million), and Mexico ($920 million). (U.S. Department of Commerce)

#12. Over 140,000 people are employed by the automotive scrap recycling segment of the industry each year. About 4 million motor vehicles are recycled each year in Canada and the United States. (Automotive Recyclers Association)

#13. About $32 billion in sales occurs in the United States each year through automotive recycling. (Automotive Recyclers Association)

#14. 86% of the content found in the average vehicle qualifies for recycling, reuse, or energy recovery. (Automotive Recyclers Association)

#15. The United States provides over 20% of the global supply of recovered copper each year. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

#16. About 65% of the aluminum cans which are produced in the United States each year are processed by the scrap recycling market. By working with this specific product, the energy from 17 million barrels of gasoline becomes recoverable for the economy. (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries)

#17. Up to 90% of the aluminum found in an automobile is typically recovered and recycled. (Automotive Recyclers Association)

#18. The United States processes enough ferrous metals through the scrap recycling industry that 25 Eiffel Towers could be built each day. (iScrap)

#19. The U.S. is the largest exporter of ferrous scrap materials in the world today. More than 20 million metric tons are exported to over 90 countries each year. (iScrap)

#20. Carbon dioxide emissions reduce by 58% when ferrous materials are recycled instead of having new items made. 60% less energy is required to recycle steel compared to producing it from new iron ore. (iScrap)

Scrap Recycling Industry Trends and Analysis

The scrap recycling industry struggles with the growing desire to stop using virgin products with an influx of supplies to use. Although revenues are growing in the industry overall, the price index for the sector reached its lowest point in over 25 years in November 2015.

There are plenty of environmental benefits which come when scrap is correctly recycled. These actions save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reserve energy use.

Net exports of scrap from the United States create a positive contribution of $210 billion to the economy since the year 2000. Domestic consumption in the U.S. continues to be a top priority. Until the actual price of scrap products stabilizes, however, the overall value of the industry will continue to decline.

The U.S. will continue pushing forward as the industry leader, though Chinese purchases of scrap are expected to decline in the next 5-year period. Changes to recycling programs are already happening in some communities because of this shift. Even with this uncertainty, there will still be localized opportunities for growth to take advantage of in the coming years.

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