The latest data from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the U.S. goods and services trade deficit widened to $61.5 billion in September, an increase of $2.9 billion from the August trade deficit. While both U.S. exports and imports increased in September, the widening trade deficit reflects a sharper increase on the import side. U.S. exports rose by $5.7 billion from the prior month to $261.1 billion in September, while imports increased by $8.6 billion to $322.7 billion.
Though September saw gains, overall this year, recycled material exports saw declines. Data from the Commerce Department show U.S. exports of all recycled materials (including ferrous and nonferrous metals, paper, plastics, rubber, glass, textiles and now electronics) declined nearly 16% year-on-year (YOY) in dollar terms to less than $20.2 billion during Jan.-Sept. 2023. In terms of quantity, U.S. recycled material exports are also down this year, falling during 15.6 million metric tons during Jan.-Sept. 2023, down 10.2% as compared to the corresponding period last year.
There were rays of hope in the export data with two countries becoming larger importers of recycled materials. By major destination, total recycled material shipments to Canada saw the largest increase in dollar terms, rising 12.7% to $3.8 billion. Thanks in part to stronger demand for recycled paper, U.S. recycled material export to Thailand surged 21.9% higher to $958 million through September. All the other top 10 export destinations have seen declines this year.
U.S. exports of recycled iron and steel (excluding stainless and alloy steel) during the first nine months of 2023 declined nearly 5% by volume to 11.5 million metric tons as weaker demand from Bangladesh (-25%), South Korea (-30%), Malaysia (-19%) and Latin America more than offset improved demand from Turkey (+7%), India (+20%), Vietnam (+13%), North America, and others.
Aluminum continued to buck the trend this year. U.S. exports of recycled aluminum to China during Jan.-Sept. 2023 reportedly increased 220% YOY to more than 41,000 metric tons, which shipments to Hong Kong increased 16% to nearly 125,000 mt. Overall, U.S. recycled aluminum exports (including Remelt Scrap Ingot and Used Beverage Containers) were up nearly 4% YOY during the first 9 months of 2023 to 1.57 million metric tons on improved demand from India (+1%), Thailand (+111%), Taiwan (+28%), and Vietnam (+58%).
U.S. Recycled Plastic Exports
For year-to-date (YTD) September 2023, U.S. recycled plastic exports fell 6.3% as measured by metric tons. The top ten countries receiving U.S. recycled plastic exports for the first nine months of 2023 accounted for 90.8% of exports, up 3.5% from their share a year ago. Canada remained the number one country, receiving 119,416 metric tons of U.S. recycled plastic exports in YTD September 2023, an increase of 3.7% from the same period a year ago. Mexico, the second top country, received 56,551 metric tons of U.S. recycled plastic exports in YTD September 2023, a decrease of 9.1% from the same period a year ago. India, remaining the third top country, received 37,624 metric tons of U.S. recycled plastic exports in YTD September 2023, an increase of 15.5% from the same period a year ago.
U.S. Recycled Paper Exports
For YTD September 2023, U.S. recycled paper exports fell 17.5% as measured by metric tons. The top 10 countries receiving U.S. recycled paper exports YTD September 2023 accounted for 94.8% of exports, up 4.5% from their share a year ago. India remained the number one country, receiving 1,930,201 metric tons of U.S. recycled paper exports in YTD September 2023, a decrease of 27.1% from the same period a year ago. Thailand, the second top country, received 1,684,051 metric tons of U.S. recycled paper exports in YTD September 2023, an increase of 25.9% from the same period a year ago. And the only country in the top ten receiving an increase in recycled paper. Mexico, remaining the third top country, received 1,385,415 metric tons of U.S. recycled paper exports in YTD September 2023, decrease of 21.4% from the same period a year ago.