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Every Time You Recycle a Can, You Strengthen the U.S. Economy

As a good citizen, when you faithfully toss that soda can into a recycling bin, you are contributing to a multibillion dollar industry. Yes. Believe it or not, recycling metals like steel and aluminum brings the people and the economy of the U.S. billions of dollars in income. It accounts for jobs to thousands, incurs tax revenue in billions and provides massive export opportunities.

Steel is the most recycled material worldwide. This is largely due to the fact that steel can be recycled over and over and over again with no loss in quality from its original state.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

To understand the impact of such a huge industry, we must understand the scrap metal recycling business. When cars, machinery and even airplanes are no longer usable, they are sent to scrap metal recycling centers. These centers tear the machines apart; separate the metals, safely dispose unrecyclable bits, and produce new metal that can be used to manufacture new cars, new machinery and even new blenders.

Creates a Circular Economy

Steel is the most recycled material worldwide. This is largely due to the fact that steel can be recycled over and over and over again with no loss in quality from its original state. In 2010, the scrap recycling industry in the U.S. processed 74 million tonnes of scrap steel. This created a scrap market value of more than $22 billion. That’s 22 billion that can be put to use, regenerated and sustained by just one industry.

Steel is a ferrous metal, but non-ferrous metals (containing no iron) can also be recycled infinitely without losing their physical and chemical properties. Recycling non-ferrous metals like aluminum, zinc and copper increases the value of the non-ferrous scrap industry each year, which means that each year this industry adds more revenue to the U.S. economy than ever before.

Encourages International Trade

Each year, the U.S. scrap metal industry exports scrap products worth billions to more than 90 countries, including China, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan and India. These countries import the metals and then use them to manufacture their own products. Their use of recycled scrap further lessens the use of valuable raw materials like iron ore. There is also an 86 percent reduction in air pollution and a 76 percent in water pollution through the use of recycled steel.

Provides Jobs

The scrap recycling industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs per year—both directly and indirectly. These jobs come from the direct production and financial procedures that occur during the recycling process as well as those working in auto yards and machine supplying services that facilitate the actual recycling of the metals. These jobs add to the sum of the total economic activity generated by the U.S. scrap recycling industry, which numbers in billions.

To add to it, these jobs are not limited to those living in the urban areas. The scrap metal industry has facilities in rural areas as well as cities, in all states, in every part of the country. Thus, the industry is as widespread as it is profitable.

Garners Tax

The scrap metal industry provides billions in state and local revenues each year. These returns are then used to help local communities all over the country. Add to that the federal taxes by the industry and its employees. That makes it billions of dollars in taxes that the scrap recycling industry provides each year to the U.S. economy.

The scrap metal industry is definitely strengthening the U.S. economy. Millions of tonnes of scrap metal, paper, plastic, glass, textiles, rubber and electronics are recycled each year to manufacture reusable items. And yet, according to Sims Metal Management, $7 billion worth of "waste" material was disposed of in landfills in 2010 instead of being recycled. If we all do our part, we can avoid this waste and help the scrap metal industry boost our economy even further.

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