Recycling Industry


From the earliest uses of scrap thousands of years ago, to the optical scanners, x-rays, and air jets separating materials in today’s high-tech shredders, scrap recycling has evolved as the major industry dedicated to transforming materials to create new products and driving economies by making the old, new again.

As the original recyclers, for decades — and indeed, centuries — the scrap recycling industry has been purchasing, processing, and brokering old materials to be remade into new products, providing critical resources for America’s manufacturing industries. Now, with a continuing societal focus on protecting our natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the scrap recycling industry is being recognized as one of the world’s first green industries, while playing a prominent role as an economic leader, job creator, major exporter, and environmental steward.



Recycling goes far, far beyond the bin at the edge of the curb. In fact, in 2013 alone, 135 million metric tons of scrap metal, paper, plastic, glass, textiles, rubber, and electronics, valued at nearly $90 billion, were manufactured into specification grade commodities by the scrap recycling industry in the United States. These commodities were sold as valuable feedstock material to industrial consumers in the United States and in more than 160 countries around the world and contributed nearly $28 billion in export sales, significantly helping the U.S. trade balance.


Economic Engine and Job Creator

The U.S. scrap recycling industry is a major economic engine powerful enough to create 462,940 jobs and generate $10.3 billion in tax revenues for governments across the country, all while making the old new again and helping to protect the earth’s air, water, and land for future generations. When people think of recycling, they think of the bin at the curb when in fact the industry is a multi-billion-dollar ‘Made in America’ manufacturing success story.

The U.S. scrap recycling industry is particularly important because its operations are so widespread. In fact, the total economic activity generated by scrap recycling in the United States make the industry similar in size to the nation’s cosmetics industry, milk industry, and aircraft engine industry.


History of Recycling Video

Impact of Recycling

Without recycling, the world would be a dramatically different place, with more pollution and greenhouse gases, increased energy use, and dramatically faster depletion of our virgin natural resources. The scrap recycling industry annually transforms millions of tons of obsolete materials from consumers, businesses, and manufacturers into useful raw materials. Without scrap recycling, more mining and use of virgin natural resources would be required. The world would be headed in a dangerous direction. Scrap recycling protects the earth’s air, water, and land, allowing society to have less impact on the planet and directly contributing to our quality of life.