15 Scrap Metal Facts: A Focus on Recycling in the United States

Scrap metal recycling is an integral aspect of sustainable waste management, not just in the U.S., but worldwide. Here, we delve into 15 compelling facts about scrap metal recycling, specifically within the United States.


1. Growing Industry: The scrap recycling industry in the U.S. contributes approximately $117 billion in economic activity annually, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

2. Job Creation: The scrap metal recycling sector is responsible for over 500,000 jobs in the U.S. [Source ISRI ]

3. Primary Metals: The main metals recycled in the U.S. are aluminum, copper, steel, and brass. Aluminum recycling, in particular, is highly efficient as it uses only 5% of the energy required to produce the primary metal.

4. Steel Recycling: The U.S. recycles about 80 million tons of steel annually, making it the largest recycled material, both in terms of volume and tonnage. [Source: Steel Recycling Institute]

5. Environmental Impact**: Recycling metal conserves up to 92% of the energy that would be used in creating new metals. [[Source: The Balance Small Business]

6. Cars & Steel: The automotive industry is the largest consumer of scrap metal, with cars being the most recycled consumer product in the U.S

7. Aluminum Cans: Approximately 105,800 cans are recycled every minute in the United States. When recycled, they can return to the shelf as a new can in less than 60 days.[Source: The Aluminum Association]

8. Diversion from Landfills: Scrap metal recycling in the U.S. annually diverts over 135 million metric tons of materials from landfills.

9. Export Powerhouse**: The U.S. is one of the top scrap metal exporters in the world. Scrap metal exports help reduce the trade deficit by generating billions in sales overseas.

10. Reduction in GHG Emissions**: The scrap recycling industry reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 300 million tons annually. [Source ISRI ]

11. Economic Stimulation**: Every time a metric ton of steel is recycled, $642 is saved, which can then be injected back into the U.S. economy.[Source: Steel Recycling Institute]

12. Electronic Waste**: E-waste is a growing concern, but in the U.S., many metals used in electronic products can be extracted and recycled.

13. Refrigerator Recycling**: About 120,000 tons of steel and 2,000 tons of copper are extracted from recycled refrigerators and freezers annually in the U.S. [Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]

14. Increasing Recycling Rates: The current rate of metal recycling in the U.S. is hovering around 70%, but there’s potential for growth. Organizations and initiatives are pushing for even higher rates.

15. Continuous Recycling Potential: Metals like aluminum and steel can be recycled indefinitely without degradation in quality, making them valuable resources for a sustainable future.

In conclusion, scrap metal recycling plays a pivotal role in the United States, both economically and environmentally. By understanding its significance, we can better support and advocate for sustainable practices.