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Fun Facts

Steel is North America's #1 Recycled Material

  • Steel is North America's #1 Recycled Material
  • Each year, more steel is recycled in the US than paper, plastic, aluminum and glass combined.
  • Material Tons: Steel 58,760,896; Paper 39,870,700; Aluminum 3,561,266; Glass 2,423,209 and Plastic 1,827,084
  • In 2012, the U.S. Scrap Industry processed (exports plus domestic recycled):
    • Aluminum - 5.4 million metric tons
    • Copper - 2.0 million metric tons
    • Lead - 1.2 million metric tons
    • Nickel / Stainless Steel – 2.0 million tons
    • Zinc - 240,000 metric tons
  • In the United States alone, 74 million metric tons of ferrous scrap was processed by the Scrap Industry last year: more than 55% of the volume of all domestically processed material.
  • Steel produced by predominantly scrap-fed electric-arc furnaces accounted for nearly 60% of the total raw steel produced in the United States in 2012—nearly 55 million metric tons.
  • The United States is the largest exporter of ferrous scrap in the world. In 2012, more than 20 million metric tons of ferrous scrap—valued at more than $9 billion—was exported to approximately 90 countries, including China, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, Canada, and India.
  • Metals can be recycled unlimited times. Paper can be recycled four to seven times


  • Today, the U.S. scrap recycling industry employs more than 137,000 people.
  • Scrap recycling has evolved as the major industry dedicated to transforming materials to create new products and driving economies.


  • The scrap recycling industry annually transforms more than 130 million metric tons of obsolete materials from consumers, businesses and manufacturers into useful raw materials. Without scrap recycling, more mining and use of virgin natural resources would be required.
  • Producing new material from scrap uses 95 percent less energy than producing the same product from our natural resources.
  • Recycling steel requires 60% less energy than producing steel from iron ore.
  • By using ferrous scrap rather than virgin materials in the production of iron and steel, CO2 emissions are reduced by 58 percent.
  • Energy saved using aluminum scrap vs. virgin materials is up to 92 percent.
  • Recycling an aluminum can saves 95% of the energy needed to make aluminum from bauxite ore.
  • In 2011 the United States domestically recycled aluminum cans saved the energy equivalent of 17 million barrels of gasoline — enough to fuel more than one million vehicles on the road for 12 months.
  • Recycling a single aluminum can will provide enough energy to run a TV for three hours.
  • Recycling reduces Greenhouse Gas emissions by significantly saving the amount of energy needed to manufacture the products that we buy, build and use. The energy saved by recycling can then be used for other purposes like heating our homes and powering our automobiles.
  • 10 lbs. of recycled aluminum cans saves the energy equivalent of 7 gallons of gasoline and reduces Greenhouse Gas (CO2) emissions by 16 lbs.

Ferrous Scrap Recycling:

  • 570 million metric tons of ferrous scrap was consumed globally in 2011.
  • In 2012, the U.S. ferrous Scrap Industry, was valued at $30.1 billion.
  • In 2012, the U.S. Scrap Industry recycled more than 55 million metric tons of ferrous metal.
  • Obsolete ferrous scrap is recovered from automobiles, steel structures, household appliances, railroad tracks, ships, farm equipment and other sources.
  • In addition, scrap generated from industrial and manufacturing sources accounts for approximately half of the ferrous scrap supply.
  • The United States annually processes more than 250 billion lbs. of scrap material — the weight of more than 70 million cars.
  • Recycling one car saves more than 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 1,400 lbs. of coal and 120 lbs. of limestone.
  • The United States recycled nearly 11.9 million cars in 2011, supplying an estimated 15.5 million tons of shredded scrap.
  • In the United States, the amount of steel that is discarded and not recycled every year is enough to build all the new American-Made cars.
  • On average, the United States processes enough ferrous scrap daily (by weight) to build 25 Eiffel Towers every day of the year.
  • The United States annually recycles enough ferrous scrap (by weight) to build more than 600 Golden Gate Bridges.
  • A 60-watt light bulb can be run for over a day on the amount of energy saved by recycling 1 pound of steel. In one year in the United States, the recycling of steel saves enough energy to heat and light 18,000,000 homes.

Nonferrous Scrap Recycling:

  • Nonferrous metals, including aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, zinc and others, are among the few materials that do not degrade or lose their chemical or physical properties in the recycling process.
  • As a result, nonferrous metals have the capacity to be recycled an infinite number of times.
  • More than eight million metric tons of nonferrous scrap was processed in the United States last year from a wide array of consumer, commercial and industrial sources: everything from copper and precious metal circuitry in electronic devices, to soft-drink containers, automobile batteries and radiators, aluminum siding, airplane parts and more.


  • It takes about 400 years for aluminum to break down naturally, but it is infinitely recyclable: aluminum can be recycled over and over without degrading.
  • An aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now.
  • From all the most common items that end up in landfills, aluminum is the only material that’s 100% recyclable, and that pays for itself.
  • The recycling rate for aluminum cans jumped seven points to 65.1 percent in 2011 as nearly 61 billion cans were recycled in the U.S.
  • An estimated 85% to 90% of all automotive aluminum is recovered and recycled.
  • We use over 80,000,000,000 aluminum soda cans every year.
  • A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf in as little as 60 days.
  • If all the aluminum scrap processed in the United States were used solely to produce standard soda cans, a line of cans would stretch 25 million miles – the distance from Earth to Venus.
  • Every three months, Americans discard enough aluminum to completely rebuild all commercial aircraft in America.
  • More than 20 million Hershey’s Kisses are wrapped each day, using 133 square miles of aluminum foil. Believe it not, ALL that foil is recyclable, but not many people realize it so most it goes in the trash.
  • At one time, aluminum was more valuable than gold.


  • The United States provides 23% of the world supply of recovered copper.
  • Copper and copper alloy scrap provides almost half of the copper consumed in the United States each year.
  • The United States annually recycles enough copper to provide the copper content of more than 26,000 Statues of Liberty.


  • Lead-acid batteries, a primary use for lead, have a 98 percent recycling rate.

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