Recycling is Manufacturing
Each year the recycling industry in the United States processes over 130 million metric tons of material into commodities that are used in new products. This is manufacturing.

Other manufacturers use the commodities produced by the recycling industry in their manufacturing processes. Recycled commodities are a key manufacturing feedstock that meets about 40 percent of the world’s industrial raw material needs.
Manufacturing Depends on Recycling

The recycling industry plays a pivotal role in the manufacturing process. In the United States alone, 70 percent of materials processed by the recycling industry annually are used in American manufacturing.

The recycling industry is also essential in helping other manufacturers reach their sustainability goals and creating a more sustainable planet for future generations. When it comes to jobs, the recycling industry is vibrant and full of employment opportunities. Annually, the U.S. recycling industry supports nearly 20,250 manufacturing jobs and provides an economic impact of $9.8 billion to the manufacturing sector. Induced impacts generated by re-spending of employees of the recycling industry and supplier firms supports an additional 8,340 manufacturing jobs with an economic impact of $4.6 billion.

Recycling’s role in manufacturing goes beyond the use of recycled content. It is equally important that manufacturers design products with recyclability in mind. The industry actively works with manufacturers to ensure such through ISRI’s Design for Recycling® (DFR) principles and award.

As manufacturing and recycling industries grow and evolve, it is important to ensure a steady supply of skilled workers both now and in the future. ISRI’s youth education curricula and outreach program provides a preview into the work of the recycling industry while encouraging students to consider the many career paths the industry provides. Equipping tomorrow’s workforce begins today.

Recycling provides critically essential feedstock, ensuring supply chains are not disrupted, protecting our natural resources, and keeping prices down for the products Americans rely on every day.

Facts and Figures

  • Nonferrous metals do not degrade or lose their chemical properties in the recycling process, allowing them to be recycled an infinite number of times.

  • About 75 percent of aluminum produced since commercial manufacturing began in the 1880s is still in productive use as secondary raw material.

  • Manufacturing paper and paper board with recycled materials uses up to 68 percent less energy than using virgin materials.

  • Using recycled plastics in manufacturing saves up to 88 percent of the energy needed to produce plastics from virgin materials.

  • U.S. recyclers process more than 5 million tons of electronics products a year.

  • The use of recycled rubber in molded products reduces greenhouse gas emissions 25 to 80 percent compared with the use of virgin plastic resins.
Additional Resources
Workforce Development

Hiring great workers is a key to a successful business. The ISRI Workforce Management Toolkit is designed to help ISRI members recruit people into exciting careers in the recycling industry.

Recycling is more than a career; it is a way of life. The recycling industry offers a variety of exciting, well-paying jobs, such as truck drivers, engineers, accountants, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, and more. A career in recycling offers opportunities and builds valuable skills for work and life.

Design For Recycling

Design for Recycling® encourages manufacturers to consider recyclability during product design in the same manner they consider cost, safety, and other factors.

Products designed with recyclability in mind:

  • Are easily recycled through current or newly designed recycling processes and procedures;

  • Are cost-effective to recycle, whereby the cost to recycle does not exceed the value of their recycled materials;

  • Are free of hazardous materials that impede the recycling process;

  • Maximize the use of recycled materials and/or components within product manufacturing; and

  • Have a net gain in the product's overall recyclability while reducing its overall negative impact on the environment.

Design for Recycling® Award

The Design for Recycling® Award is ISRI’s highest award. The award recognizes the proactive steps made by manufacturers who have actively incorporated Design for Recycling® principles into their products and manufacturing processes.

Learn more and apply at


Youth Outreach

ISRI in partnership with JASON Learning has launched a recycling education campaign for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. This partnership presents a unique opportunity to not only spread the recycling message to youth, but also to inspire America’s students to think about careers in the recycling business, and give them the scientific and technical background that such jobs require.


To help your company promote recycling’s essential role in American manufacturing as well as the industry’s economic impact, ISRI prepared a toolkit of resources members can use to highlight the industry's essential, economic, and environmental benefits.


In recognition of recycling’s role as manufacturing, ISRI has prepared a toolkit for members to use to highlight the benefits of recycling on National Manufacturing Day and beyond.

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