ISRI releases study on the economics of recycling

ISRI releases study on the economics of recycling

The recycling industry generates more than $105 billion in economic activity annually, according to study.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, has released a new economic impact study that shows the recycling industry accounts for nearly half a million jobs in the United States and generates more than $105 billion annually in economic activity.

The independent consulting firm of John Dunham and Associates, Brooklyn, New York, conducted the study, which explores the size and scope of the scrap industry in the United States and measure its contribution to the economy in terms of employment, tax generation and overall economic benefit.

The survey finds that since 2013 direct employment in the recycling industry has increased by 8 percent, direct economic activity has increased by 30 percent and tax revenue generated by the recycling industry has increased by about 8 percent.

ISRI conducted similar studies in 2011 and 2013.

“Despite the challenging landscape of today’s global marketplace, scrap recycling has proven to be a resilient, job creating and economy-driving industry,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “As the first link in the manufacturing chain and as a major exporter, the scrap recycling industry is a leading indicator to the overall health of the U.S. economy. While the last several months have been difficult for commodities, this study suggests hope for a rebound.”

According to the report, the recycling industry is responsible for 471,587 direct and indirect jobs in the United States, of which 149,010 are direct jobs. Direct jobs include those in facilities that process scrap materials into new, usable commodities. Indirect jobs come from those that supply machinery, equipment and services to processors and the wages and taxes paid by the scrap recyclers to their workers and suppliers.

The data used for the study was gathered by location. Further, to ensure the accuracy of the information, John Dunham and Associates only included companies that classified their operations as recycling firms.

Also, according to the study:

  • The industry generates about $4.4 billion in state and local revenue annually and another $6.8 billion in federal taxes are paid each year by the industry and its employees.
  • The scrap recycling industry accounts for 0.68 percent of the national’s total economic activity, making it similar in size to the country’s data processing and hosting, dental and automotive repair industries.
  • Exports account for 26.8 percent of the industry’s economic activity, creating roughly 125,276 jobs.
  • Export activity generates $28.3 billion in economic benefits, including $1.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $1.7 billion in state and local taxes.

Mark Carpenter, a spokesman for ISRI, says, “As this study shows, the recycling industry is an economic driver that can attract high-paying jobs to a region, both directly and indirectly, as well as generate local and state revenue through taxes. Being able to show that it is similar in size to industries such as automotive repair and data process and hosting also demonstrates its scope and magnitude.”

Continuing, Carpenter says, “The ability to break down the number of jobs and economic impact in great detail for each congressional and state legislative district is a great way to educate elected officials about the value and importance of the recycling industry, particularly among their constituents. The study will be shared with members of Congress and state legislators as part of ISRI’s ongoing advocacy efforts through its work on Capitol Hill and [with] chapters and individual member outreach.”

The full report, along with state by state and congressional district breakdowns, can be found at