The Essential Role of Recycling

Recycling is the critical first link in the manufacturing value chain and is an important component of the protection of the environment and American competitiveness. Recycled commodities such as metal, paper, plastics, and others feed U.S. manufacturing operations including transportation, infrastructure, manufactured goods, electronics, healthcare and personal supplies, and other priority needs for today’s world.

Without recycling, we would need to harvest the earth for its natural resources, and/or depend on foreign countries for raw materials. Our world, our planet, and our livelihoods depend on recycling.

Uses of Recycled Commodities

Construction, Automaking, & Appliances

The U.S. steel industry relies on recycled steel as its largest single raw material input. In fact, 70 percent of all U.S. produced steel and stainless steel are made from recycled material supplied by recyclers.

Paper Products

More than 75 percent of U.S. paper mills depend on recovered fiber from recycling operations for daily production needs.

Tissue & Toilet Paper

Recyclers are responsible for supplying 58 percent of the feedstock to tissue mills throughout the United States. These mills produce the toilet paper and tissues that are in critical supply and needed every day.

The Beverage Industry

More than half of all aluminum consumption by manufacturers in the United States comes from recycled commodities.

Copper, Bronze, & Brass in Manufacturing

Copper and copper alloy production in the United States are heavily dependent on recyclables as a raw material input. Recycled copper provides approximately one‐third of the supply of all copper, brass, and bronze produced in the U.S.

Food Packaging

The increased demand for and delivery of food items depend on food packaging, which is produced using various grades of recovered paper and plastics, made from recyclables collected and processed by the recycling industry.

economic impact
Recycling is Essential for the Environment
Using recycled commodities in manufacturing in place of virgin content eliminates the need for mining, drilling for oil and natural gas, and other harmful environmental practices used to harvest raw materials. Other environmental benefits include:
  • Slowing the pace of global deforestation;
  • Reducing landfill use;
  • Lowering energy costs; and
  • Cutting down greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, recycling is a proven solution to the climate crisis. Using recyclable materials in manufacturing has several benefits:
  • 130-135 million metric tons diverted from landfills each year;
  • 27-90% reduction in energy consumption depending on commodity; and
  • 35-96% lower greenhouse gas emissions depending on the material.
Learn more about recycling’s role in sustainability.
economic impact
Recycling is Essential to the Economy

The economic benefits generated by the recycling industry are far-reaching. Not only are recycling facilities located in every state throughout the country, and in both urban and rural communities, but also the firms that supply materials, goods, and services to processors and brokers are located in every part of the country.

The production of recycled commodities has a $117 billion economic impact in the U.S. The industry directly supports 160,000 jobs and indirectly supports 346,499 jobs through suppliers and the indirect impact of the industry’s expenditures. Indirect jobs include everything from manufacturing and farming to retail and food industry.

Learn more about recycling’s economic impact.

economic impact
Recycling is Essential for Manufacturing

The recycling sector supplies 40 percent (on average across all commodities) of raw material needs for U.S. manufacturing. Without the continued supply of specification‐grade recyclable materials, many companies would be forced to reduce operations.

Learn more about recycling’s role in manufacturing.

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