From our homes and workplaces to our schools, shopping districts, public transportation, and beyond, the essential role of the recycling industry is everywhere. So much of our way of life is touched by recycling, and this of course includes the economic might of the industry, and its impact.

To paint a clear picture of the industry’s varied role in the economy, ISRI commissions an Economic Impact Study by John Dunham and Associates that examines different kinds of economic activity – jobs and exports – and both direct and indirect economic impacts at the national, state, and congressional district levels.

economic impact

ISRI’s 2021 Economic Impact Study highlights the numerous economic and environmental benefits of the U.S. recycling industry including:

  • The industry’s nearly $117 billion contribution to the U.S. economy.

  • More than 506,000 well-paying jobs directly and indirectly supported by recycling.

  • The $35.70 billion in export related economic impact.

  • The 130 million metric tons of valuable commodities processed by recycling annually.
economic impact
Find the impact recycling has in your local community using the map below! ISRI members, contact Joe Pickard, ISRI’s chief economist and director of commodities, for a report of your company’s economic impact!


Economic Impact of Recycling
economic impact
U.S. Jobs Supported by Recycling

Currently, 159,640 jobs are directly supported by recycling and brokerage operations of the recycling industry in the United States. These jobs pay an average of $77,300 in wages and benefits to American workers and local communities throughout the country.

In addition, 346,499 jobs throughout the U.S. economy are indirectly supported by the recycling industry through suppliers and the indirect impact of the industry’s expenditures.

economic impact
Recycling’s Role in American Manufacturing

Recycling is the first link in the manufacturing supply chain. Each year, the industry supplies manufacturers with commodity-grade recyclable metals, paper, plastics, glass, and rubber as feedstock for the production of new materials and goods. These efforts decrease our reliance on virgin materials and protect our limited natural resources. In addition, recyclers are buying equipment and other manufactured goods that support U.S. manufacturing jobs. Annually, the U.S. recycling industry supports nearly 20,250 manufacturing jobs and provides an economic impact of $9.8 billion to the manufacturing sector. Induced impacts generated by re-spending of employees of the recycling industry and supplier firms supports an additional 8,340 manufacturing jobs with an economic impact of $4.6 billion.

economic impact
Recycling’s Impact on U.S. Taxes and Wages

The industry generates about $4.97 billion in state and local revenues annually, revenues that are used to help communities and people throughout the country. Another $7.33 billion in federal taxes are paid annually by the industry and its employees.

economic impact
America’s Infrastructure Relies on Recycling

From our cars, and roadways, to our bridges, train stations, airports, and more, America’s transportation system relies on the work of the recycling industry. Our infrastructure network also depends on effective communication and internet services. Recycling supports more than 16,900 transportation and communication jobs and has an economic impact of $4.9 billion on the U.S. transportation and communication industries. Induced impacts generated by re-spending of employees of the recycling industry and supplier firms supports an additional 11,490 transportation and communication jobs with an economic impact of $4.1 billion.

economic impact
Recycling is Essential to Agriculture

When it comes to agriculture, recycling plays an important role by providing the industry with many of the elements needed to keep recycling operations running. Additionally, recyclers support agriculture by purchasing goods like lunch each day! The U.S. agriculture industry directly benefits from the efforts of the recycling industry. More than 6,300 agriculture jobs are supported by recycling generating an economic impact of $525 million. In addition, induced impacts generated by re-spending of employees of the recycling industry and supplier firms supports an additional 3,480 agricultural jobs with an economic impact of $458 million.

The study looks at the for-profit U.S. recycling industry, consisting of all operations from both privately held and publicly traded firms engaged in the processing and brokering of recycled commodities.

What is the Economic Impact in your area?

Discover the national, state, and local economic impact of the scrap recycling industry by using the interactive map and database below.


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