What is Recycling?

Recycling is the series of activities in which commodity-grade recyclable materials, including metals, paper, plastics, glass, and rubber, are collected, processed, brokered, and sold as feedstock in the manufacturing of new products.

Manufacturers value recycled commodities as raw materials because they can provide cost, energy, and environmental savings when they are used instead of virgin materials. Most recycled material comes from industrial and commercial sources, while residential recycling provides only about one-third of the U.S. supply of recycled materials.

Recycled materials consist of used and end-of-life materials and products including vehicles, old newspapers and magazines, used appliances, demolished buildings, cardboard boxes, and used bottles and cans. The material that comes from the manufacturing process, including metal clippings, stampings, paper overruns and cuttings, are also considered scrap. Because new products are continually entering the marketplace, recyclers need to be extremely innovative to keep up with the end-of-life and used market developments.

Recyclable cardboard bundled on a truck.
Recycling is Essential

Recycling is Essential

Recycling is a sophisticated, capital-intensive industry that has been creating “green” jobs in the United States for decades. The recycling industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy, generating nearly $110 billion in economic activity and directly employing over 160,000 people across the country. In addition to being an economic power-house, recycling is essential for a healthier planet. Recycling reduces the amount of material that ends up in landfills or oceans, while also dramatically cutting harmful emissions.

Source: 2019 Recycling Industry Yearbook, ISRI

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