The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has long touted the economic benefits of the U.S. recycling industry. In a study released earlier this year, the association highlights some of these impacts.
The study, commissioned by ISRI and conducted by John Dunham and Associates, looks at direct and indirect economic impacts at the national, state and congressional district levels as well as at different kinds of economic activity, including jobs and exports, for the current year.
The study, which defines the scrap recycling industry as those companies in the private sector engaged in processing and brokering scrap metals, plastics, rubber, paper, textiles, glass and electronics, measures the number of jobs in the sector and wages paid to employees, among other metrics.
The study shows that the U.S. scrap recycling industry created 534,506 jobs and generated $13.2 billion in tax revenue for governments across the country—$4.95 billion in state and local and $8.26 billion in federal—in 2017.
These economic benefits are in addition to recycling’s environmental benefits, which include avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, saving energy and conserving natural resources.
According to ISRI, “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 is $117 billion.”
The international trade of recyclables, particularly with China, contributes to the economic health of the U.S. recycling industry. More than $5.6 billion in scrap commodities were exported from the U.S. to China in 2016, the association says. China’s July 18 filing with the World Trade Organization of its intention to ban the import of mixed paper; “most scrap plastics,” including ethylene, styrene and vinyl chloride polymers and PET (polyethylene terephthalate); and metal slags and drosses by the end of 2017, therefore, is especially troubling.
“If implemented, a ban on scrap imports will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and closure of many recycling businesses throughout the United States,” ISRI says.
The association says it has “already notified the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Commerce [of] the devastating impact such a ban will have on the global recycling industry, especially because ISRI has heard that China is considering additional notifications in the future on other scrap materials.”
ISRI President Robin Wiener says, “A ban on imports of scrap commodities into China would be catastrophic to the recycling industry.”
Recycling Today will report additional news regarding China’s intended ban as it develops. Please check our website and e-newsletters for the most up-to-date information on this story and its potential impact on the U.S. recycling industry.