Ask most people about recycling and they think of getting their used cans, bottles, and newspapers to the curb for collection. Certainly, the curbside recycling handled by cities and counties across the country is a vital part of recycling, but it makes up less than half of the really big picture of recycling.

Who recycles your cars, appliances, even old buildings? Where do bridges, stadiums, and ocean liners go at the end of their lives? What happens to the billions of pounds of boxes used by grocers and retailers, the tons of leftover manufacturing material, and the millions of pounds of other recyclable items that reach the end of their useful life each year?

The majority of recyclable material generated in the United States ends its life and begins a new life at a for-profit professional scrap recycling facility. Scrap recycling is a $65 billion industry in the United States that transforms obsolete materials from consumers, businesses, and manufacturers into useful raw materials that are essential to the manufacture of new products. The scrap industry’s knowledge and expertise make recycling possible. Our investment and technology make it economically practical.

The U.S. scrap recycling industry is big business. Scrap facilities often invest millions of dollars in high-tech, environmentally designed manufacturing machinery that is used to sort, pack, transform, process, manufacture, and ship materials to begin their new lives as buildings, ships, and consumer products.

The industry provides jobs — over 50,000 jobs in scrap yards alone — and helps support hundreds of thousands more in related industries. It diverts over 150 million tons of material from local landfills. And the scrap industry makes a substantial positive contribution to the U.S. balance of trade, exporting more than $15 billion a year in products to over 140 countries around the world.

Being "green" is good for business, too. Making new aluminum from old aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than producing the same product from ore. Recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees, 79 gallons of oil, and 7000 gallons of water. These saving help keep costs down and help keep jobs here in the United States.

The same is true for all sorts of old materials. Used tires must be shredded and sorted, with the steel belts (tire wire) going back to the steel industry and the rubber being sent to industries that manufacture materials ranging from soaker hoses to school playground cover. Empty corrugated boxes and roll-ends of newsprint from printers must be collected, then separated, sorted, and reused to make new paper products.

New products made from steel contain, on average, between 60 and 75 percent recycled steel. Figures like that give credibility to the steel industry as it stakes its claim on recycling. But the steel industry depends on scrap recyclers to process those old cars, buildings, and bridges into materials that can be melted and made into new beams, bolts, and sheet metal.

The scrap recycling industry doesn't stop there. We're constantly seeking new markets and developing new tech- nologies to improve efficiency and reduce waste—both of which are essential to environmental sustainability.

Recycling is not a single activity. It is a process—a chain of activities that includes consumers and manufacturers—that's a lot bigger than your recycling bin at the curb.

As the last step in a product's lifespan and the first step in manufacturing, the scrap recycling industry completes the chain.

We make recycling happen.