NIAD Member

Where Recyclable Products Are Processed

We’ve gotten a lot of questions on where we ship or market the multiple grades of metal, paper, and plastic recyclable products we handle. When we reply that many of these materials are exported to foreign countries, people have a hard time believing recyclables would be shipped to the other side of the world for processing.  Here are a few reasons it’s more cost effective to ship commodities internationally:

Shipping:  Today’s container ships can carry as many as 12,000-15,000 20 ft. or 40 ft. containers. Many of these containers contain recyclable products such as paper, metals, or plastics. Due to the size of these vessels, and the number of containers they are able to carry – it can sometimes be cheaper to load a vessel in NY and ship a container to China, than to drive it by truck 300-400 miles across the US.

Since Asia is a net-exporter, shipping companies offer discounts for low grade or low value items (such as recyclable products) traveling to Asia.  They need to get containers to this part of the world to be filled with more lucrative and profitable products returning to the US.

Infrastructure:  Many countries do not have the infrastructure which enables them to generate, collect, and then recycle commodities. They need to import raw materials from the US and other industrialized nations to support the manufacturing of recyclable products.

Labor:  The hourly wage is much lower in the Middle East and Asia than in the US.

Manufacturing:  Much of the world’s product manufacturing takes place in these locations, and they require the raw material to manufacture packaging and boxes to ship these products.

How much recyclable material is actually exported?*

  • Recovered paper exports through July 2016: 5 million metric tons
  • Aluminum beverage can exports through July, 2016: 2 million lbs.
  • Aluminum scrap exports through July 2016: 7 billion lbs.
  • Ferrous (steel) scrap exports through July 2016: 7 million metric tons
  • Glass scrap exports through July 2016: 31,510 tons
  • Scrap plastic exports through July 2016: 4 billion lbs.

Contact us to find out more about the processing and shipping our recyclable products go through.