Recycling FAQs


According to the California Department of Conservation, Californians recycle nearly 400 tons of aluminum cans every day.  That's enough aluminum to produce four Boeing 747 passenger airplanes!


 What is the Scrap Recycling Industry?

The American scrap recycling industry's products are worth at least $20 billion a year. In the United States alone, scrap recyclers handled approximately 120 million tons of recyclables annually destined for domestic use and overseas markets.

This tonnage included approximately:

-       60 million tons of scrap iron and steel

-       47 million tons of scrap paper and paperboard

-       5.1 million tons of scrap aluminum

-       1.7 million tons of scrap copper

-       1.1 million tons of scrap stainless steel

-       1.4 million tons of scrap lead

-       248,000 tons of scrap zinc

-       2.3 million tons of scrap glass or cullet (beverage containers only)

-       745 million pounds of scrap PET plastic bottles

-       734 million pounds of scrap HDPE plastic bottles


This scrap is collected for beneficial reuse, conserving impressive amounts of energy and natural resources in the recycling process. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycled aluminum saves the nation 95 percent of the energy that would have been needed to make new aluminum from ore. Recycled iron and steel result in energy savings of 74 percent; recycled copper, 85 percent; recycled paper, 64 percent; and recycled plastic, more than 80 percent.

In addition to the obvious environmental contributions of the scrap recycling industry, ISRI members provide economic benefits to the nation, including exports that benefit the U.S. balance of trade.

Many ISRI members are small family-owned businesses, including a significant number that have been in continuous operation for 100 years or more. Others are large, publicly traded or privately held corporations. All members cherish their heritage as the nation's Original Recyclers®. ISRI itself represents almost a century of service to the business of processing and recycling scrap commodities. It was formed in 1987 through a merger of the National Association of Recycling Industries, founded in 1913, and the Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel, founded in 1928.

All ISRI members are experts in the handling, processing, shipping, and/or ultimate recycling of scrap commodities and can assist communities and organizations in the planning, establishment, and implementation of recycling activities. Their experience and capabilities can save countless public and private hours and dollars in developing effective approaches to recycling.


Paper Recycling


About Paper Recycling

Paper recycling is the process of recovering waste paper and remaking it into new paper products. There are three categories of paper that can be used as feed stocks for making recycled paper:

-       Mill broke is paper trimmings and other paper scrap from the manufacture of paper, and is recycled internally in a paper mill.

-       Pre-consumer waste is material that was discarded before it was ready for consumer use.

-       Post-consumer waste is material discarded after consumer use, including OMG (old magazines), OTD (old telephone directories), and RMP (residential mixed paper). Paper suitable for recycling is called "scrap paper".

Since the early 1980s, recycled paper has progressed from gray and dingy flecked sheets, which many commercial printers would not use because of poor control of acidity and other problems, to an indistinguishable competitor of paper made from virgin feed stocks.

Some statistics on paper consumption:

-       The average per capita paper use in the USA in 2001 was 700 pounds. The average per capita paper use worldwide was 110 pounds.

-       Although paper is traditionally identified with reading and writing, communications has now been replaced by packaging as the single largest category of paper use at 41% of all paper used. Most corrugated fiberboard boxes have over 25% recycled fibers. Some are 100% recycled fiber.

-       115 billion sheets of paper are used annually for personal computers.  The average web user prints 28 pages daily.


Electronics Recycling


About Electronics Recycling

If treated properly, electronic waste is a valuable source for secondary raw materials. However, if not treated properly, it is a major source of toxins and carcinogens. Rapid technology change, low initial cost and even planned obsolescence have resulted in a fast growing problem around the globe. Electronic waste represents 2 percent of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70 percent of overall toxic waste.

Electronic waste is of concern largely due to the toxicity and carcinogenicity of some of the substances if processed improperly.   For example, a typical computer monitor may contain more than 6% lead by weight.


Substances and elements contained in electronic waste:

-       Substances in bulk: PCBs,  PVC, thermosetting plastics, epoxy resins, and fiber glass.

-       Elements in bulk: Lead, tin, copper, silicon, carbon, iron and aluminium.

-       Elements in small amounts: Cadmium, mercury, thallium.


Applications of these substances and elements:

-       Almost all electronics contain lead and tin (as solder) and copper (as wire and PCB tracks), though the use of lead-free solder is now spreading rapidly.

-       Lead: solder, CRT monitors (lead in glass), lead-acid batteries

-       Tin: solder, coatings on component leads

-       Copper: copper wire, printed circuit board tracks, component leads

-       Cadmium: light-sensitive resistors, corrosion-resistant alloys for marine and aviation environments

-       Aluminium: nearly all electronic goods using more than a few watts of power (heatsinks), electrolytic capacitors.

-       Iron: steel chassis, cases and fixings

-       Silicon: glass, transistors, ICs, printed circuit boards.

-       Nickel and cadmium: nickel-cadmium batteries

-       Lithium: lithium-ion battery

-       Zinc: plating for steel parts

-       Gold: connector plating, primarily in computer equipment

-       Americium: smoke alarms (radioactive source)

-       Germanium: 1950s–1960s transistorised electronics (bipolar junction transistors)

-       Mercury: fluorescent tubes (numerous applications), tilt switches (pinball games, mechanical doorbells, thermostats)

-       Sulphur: lead-acid batteries

-       Carbon: steel, plastics, resistors. In almost all electronic equipment.


Plastics Recycling


About Plastics Recycling

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastics and reprocessing the material into useful products, sometimes completely different from their original state. For instance, this could mean melting down soft drink bottles to make plastic toys and waste cans.

Plastic recycling rates lag far behind those of other items, such as newspaper and cardboard. One reason is that consumers often don’t understand the types of plastics that can be recycled in their area.

Types of plastics are assigned a number, called a resin identification code, which is usually stamped on the bottom of container. Before recycling, plastics must be sorted according to their resin identification code.

The identification codes are as follows:

The most-often recycled plastic, HDPE or number 2, is down-cycled into plastic lumber, tables, roadside curbs, benches, truck cargo liners, trash receptacles, rulers and other durable plastic products and is usually in demand.