Data for the first half of 2023 has been released and the recycled materials industry has been hit hard. Overall, the U.S. goods and services trade deficit decreased by $117.7 billion, or 22.3%, as compared to the same period in 2022. Exports year to date (YTD) increased $37.6 billion or 2.5%. Imports decreased $80.1 billion or 4.0%.
“The recycled materials industry has been feeling the effects of the Federal Reserve Bank’s actions to lower demand and rein inflation,” says ISRI Chief Economist and Director of Commodities Joe Pickard. “For the nearly one year, the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing PMI has shown levels under 50, indicating contraction in the manufacturing sector.”
U.S. exports of recycled materials (including recycled ferrous and nonferrous metals, paper and fiber, plastics, glass, textiles, rubber, etc.) during the first half of 2023 declined 19.8% year-on-year (YOY) in dollar terms to $13.4 billion. Over the same period, the value of U.S. imports of all recycled materials declined 19.3% YOY to $4.1 billion. As a result, the U.S. trade surplus in recycled materials during Jan-Jun 2023 declined 20% YOY to $9.3 billion. Top 10 Export Destinations for U.S. Recycled Material Exports were Canada, India, China, Mexico, Malaysia, Turkey, Germany, Thailand, Italy, and South Korea.
One commodity bucked the trend as compared to the other major recycled commodity groups: aluminum. U.S. exports of recycled aluminum (including Used Beverage Containers and Remelt Scrap Ingot) increased 2.7% YOY during the first half of 2023 to nearly 1.04 million metric tons. Improved demand from Thailand, Malaysia, China and India all contributed to the first half increase.
U.S. exports of recycled iron and steel (excluding stainless and alloy steel) decreased 3.6% YOY during the first half of 2023 to 8.18 million metric tons according to the latest trade data from the Commerce Department.
U.S. exports of recycled copper and copper alloys declined 12.4% YOY during Jan-Jun 2023 to just over 419,000 metric tons.
U.S. recycled plastic exports fell 7.8% as measured by metric tons YOY during Jan-Jun 2023.The dollar value declined 30.9% to $112.1 million in the first half of 2023.
“Corrugated box production has been down domestically and internationally, as shown by the 20% decline in U.S. recycled paper exports. With prices down, and labor and other cost up significantly, the recycled paper industry is in a contractionary phase for the first half of 2023,” according to ISRI’s Senior Economist Bret Biggers.
U.S. recycled paper exports fell 20% YOY during Jan-Jun 2023. By dollar value, U.S. recycled paper exports were down 32.1%YOY during Jan – Jun 2023. Only bleached chemical pulp showed an increase during the first half of 2023, rising 28.7% to $87.3 million.