Recycling is Manufacturing

The roof over your house, the car you drive, the school your children learn in, the life-saving equipment your doctor uses every day, what do these have in common? They began with recycling.

Recycled materials provide a renewable source of high-quality materials for the manufacturing of everyday items and essential infrastructure.

Recycling Sustains Manufacturing

The recycled materials industry plays a pivotal role in the manufacturing process. In the United States, 70 percent of materials processed by the recycling industry annually are used in American manufacturing.

The recycling industry is also essential in helping other manufacturers reach their sustainability goals and creating a greener planet for future generations. When it comes to jobs, more than half a million in the United States are currently supported by the recycling industry.

Recycling’s role in manufacturing goes beyond the use of recycled content. It is equally important that manufacturers design products with recyclability in mind. The industry actively works with manufacturers to ensure such through ISRI’s Design for Recycling® (DFR) principles and award.

As manufacturing and recycling industries grow and evolve, it is important to ensure a steady supply of skilled workers both now and in the future. ISRI’s youth education curricula and outreach program provide a preview into the work of the recycling industry and encourages students to consider the many career paths within the industry. Equipping tomorrow’s workforce begins today.

Recycling provides critically essential raw materials ensuring supply chains are not disrupted, protecting our natural resources, and keeping prices down for the products Americans rely on every day.

Facts and Figures

  • Recycling Protects Natural Resources: 70% of the steel produced in the U.S. comes from recycled metals! 
  • Recycling Makes Us Less Dependent on Scarce Resources: 75% of all the aluminum used in manufacturing since the 1880s is from recycling!
  • Recycling Makes the Supply Chain More Sustainable & Self-Sufficient: More than 91% of cardboard boxes are recycled!
  • Recycling is Constantly Innovating to Recycle More Material: More than 85% of a car can be recycled into items like your next laptop, essential infrastructure, and more!
  • Recycling is a Renewable Source of Raw Material: Your cell phone contains plastic, gold, silver, copper, and aluminum, all of which can be recycled and transformed into your favorite jewelry, wiring in your home, and more!
  • Recycling Provides High-Quality Materials for Everyday Items: Old tires are recycled and used in playgrounds, athletic fields, farm surfacing, flower pots, roofing, and more!
  • Recycling is a Renewable Source of Materials for Essential Infrastructure: Recycled plastics are used in roadways, healthcare equipment, and more!
Additional Resources
Workforce Development

Hiring great workers is a key to a successful business. The ISRI Workforce Management Toolkit is designed to help ISRI members recruit people into exciting careers in the recycling industry.

Recycling is more than a career; it is a way of life. The recycling industry offers a variety of exciting, well-paying jobs, such as truck drivers, engineers, accountants, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, and more. A career in recycling offers opportunities and builds valuable skills for work and life.

Design For Recycling

Design for Recycling® encourages manufacturers to consider recyclability during product design in the same manner they consider cost, safety, and other factors.

Products designed with recyclability in mind:

  • Are easily recycled through current or newly designed recycling processes and procedures;

  • Are cost-effective to recycle, whereby the cost to recycle does not exceed the value of their recycled materials;

  • Are free of hazardous materials that impede the recycling process;

  • Maximize the use of recycled materials and/or components within product manufacturing; and

  • Have a net gain in the product's overall recyclability while reducing its overall negative impact on the environment.

Design for Recycling® Award

The Design for Recycling® Award is ISRI’s highest award. The award recognizes the proactive steps made by manufacturers who have actively incorporated Design for Recycling® principles into their products and manufacturing processes.

The 2023 Design for Recycling® Award entry period is now open! Learn more and apply at


Youth Outreach

ISRI in partnership with JASON Learning has launched a recycling education campaign for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. This partnership presents a unique opportunity to not only spread the recycling message to youth, but also inspire students to think about careers in the recycling industry, and give them the scientific and technical background that such jobs require.

The 2023 Youth Video and Poster Contest is now underway! Students in grades K-12 in the U.S. and Canada are invited to create a poster or video that tell the story of a previous life of a product made from recycled materials and explain how the creation of the product is key to sustainability and why it matters. Learn more and share contest information with students and educators in your community.


To help your company promote recycling’s essential role in American manufacturing as well as the industry’s economic impact, ISRI prepared a toolkit of resources members can use to highlight the industry's essential, economic, and environmental benefits.


In recognition of recycling’s role as manufacturing, ISRI has prepared a toolkit for members to use to highlight the benefits of recycling on National Manufacturing Day and beyond.

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