Recycling Facts


Steel is the world’s most recycled material.

  • In 2012, the U.S. ferrous scrap industry was valued at $30.1 billion.
  • On average, the United States processes enough ferrous scrap daily, by weight, to build 25 Eiffel Towers every day of the year.
  • In 2012, the U.S. scrap industry recycled more than 55 million metric tons of ferrous metal.
  • Steel produced by predominantly scrap-fed electric-arc furnaces accounted for nearly 60 percent 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.
  • 570 million metric tons of ferrous scrap were consumed globally in 2011.
  • By using ferrous scrap rather than virgin materials in the production of iron and steel, CO2 emissions are reduced by 58%.
  • Recycling steel requires 60% less energy than producing steel from iron ore.
  • 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.
  • 2011 Recycling Rate
    • Cars: 95%
    • Appliances: 90%
    • Steel Cans: 71%
    • Structural Steel: 98%
    • Reinforcement Steel: 70%



  • The recycling rate for aluminum cans jumped seven points to 65.1% in 2011 as nearly 61 billion cans were recycled in the U.S.
  • 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.
  • Energy saved using aluminum scrap vs. virgin materials is up to 92%.
  • A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf in as little as 60 days.
  • An estimated 85%-90% of all automotive aluminum is recovered and recycled.


  • Copper is the best non-precious metal conductor of electricity.
  • The United States annually recycles enough copper to provide the copper content for 25,000 Statues of Liberty.
  • Copper and copper alloy scrap provides almost half of the copper consumed in the United States each year.
  • The United States provides more than 20% of the world supply of recovered copper.
  • In 2012, the U.S. scrap industry processed (exports plus domestic recycled):
    • 5.4 million metric tons of aluminum
    • 2.0 million metric tons of copper
    • 1.2 million metric tons of lead
    • 240,000 metric tons of zinc
    • 2 million tons of nickel/stainless steel
  • The United States exported nearly $14 billion worth of nonferrous scrap to more than 90 countries in 2012, including China, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Belgium, India and Germany.

Sources: ISRI, AISI, BIR, USGS, USITC, other industry sources