The U.S. Commerce Department last week released year-end data for 2022, showing that exports of all recycled commodities dipped by 4.4% compared to 2021.

“Last year’s downturn in U.S. recycled material exports was in part a reflection of slower global economic growth and trade volumes, along with heightened commodity price volatility,” said Joe Pickard, ISRI’s chief economist.

Some other key findings from the Commerce Department related to recycled materials:

  • By commodity and quantity, U.S. recycled plastics had the sharpest decline last year in percentage terms, falling 22% compared to 2021 to 430,000 metric tons, followed by recycled paper and fiber -down 7.2%), recycled ferrous (excluding stainless and alloys, down 4.8%) and recycled aluminum (also down 4.8%).
  • S. exports of recycled stainless steel and steel alloys outperformed other commodities, surging nearly 40% higher in 2021 thanks to improved demand from India, Mexico, Canada and Taiwan.
  • S. exports of recycled copper and copper alloys also improved in 2022, advancing 1.4% by quantity to 930,000 metric tons and climbing 8.8% higher in dollar terms to nearly $4.9 billion as improved trade flows to China, India, Thailand, Belgium and others more than offset the sharp downturn in shipments to Malaysia.
  • S recycled paper exports to the top 10 countries decreased 5.7% in 2022 compared to the prior year.
  • Recycled paper exports to top destination India declined 5% during the year.

In explaining the decline, Pickard cited International Monetary Fund estimates that world economic output slowed from 6.2% growth in 2021 to 3.4% growth in 2022.

“Trade restrictions also played a part, particularly in Southeast Asia. In 2022, U.S. exports of recycled materials to Malaysia dropped by $340 million and shipments to Vietnam were down by $305 million as compared to 2021,” he added.

Click here to read more from ISRI’s economics team and their analysis of this important industry data.

Rachel Bookman

Rachel Bookman

Rachel is the director of communications at ISRI. She is a proud New Orleanian and LSU grad (Geaux Tigers). When not spending time with her one year old, August, or husband, she enjoys traveling, shopping, and solving complex word search puzzles.