The scrap market has become increasingly global in nature in recent decades. Figures from the United Nations Comtrade Database show that in 2015 alone, exports of all scrap commodities from reporting countries approached 180 million metric tons valued at more than $86 billion. While the United States is the largest exporter of recycled commodities in the world and China is the world’s dominant consumer of commodities (including scrap), the scrap marketplace is far from bilateral, stretching to virtually every corner of the globe.
The free and fair trade of scrap commodities provides tremendous economic and environmental benefits stemming not only from scrap’s attractiveness as a low-cost raw material input for manufacturers, but also due to the energy savings, reduced depletion of natural resources, and reduction of material sent to landfills associated with scrap recycling. Maintaining open markets for scrap is vital to ensuring that recycling’s economic and environmental benefits are fully realized.
The tables below illustrate the flow of recyclables across the globe by major scrap commodity and importing/exporting economies, as well as the total amount of scrap traded globally: