With states and communities across the country taking important steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), in a letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, requested that all recycling operations across the U.S. be designated “essential” to public health and welfare, as well as to the nation’s economic infrastructure.
The recycling industry supplies a significant portion of the raw materials needed by manufacturers to produce the goods relied upon by Americans every day, including those needed during this critical time, noted ISRI.
Excerpts from ISRI’s letter follow (full text of letter):
We recognize and fully support the need to take these drastic actions in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, we urge you to help provide consistency in the determination of what is considered essential by formally recognizing that recycling operations are essential businesses, necessary for the continued supply of raw materials for U.S. manufacturing, including the steel and papermaking industries that are part of the foundation of our country’s manufacturing economy and that are relied upon by Americans every day for producing everything from automobiles, appliances and construction equipment to food packaging, writing papers and toilet paper. The recycling industry is essential to supplying U.S. manufacturing with the materials necessary to produce steel, aluminum, paper, plastics, rubber and many other materials.
Recycling is the first link in the U.S. manufacturing supply chain, supplying 40%, on average across all commodities, of this country’s raw material needs. The U.S. steel industry, for example, relies on a steady supply of ferrous scrap from recyclers to supply its mills, without which they could not operate as 70% of all U.S. produced steel is made from ferrous scrap supplied by recyclers from across the country. Over three-quarters of U.S. paper mills utilize recovered paper from recycling operations for their daily production needs. This supply chain cannot be halted and restarted without significant supply disruptions that would ripple throughout the entire U.S. manufacturing chain.
Several of the manufacturing industries that recyclers regularly supply have been officially designated as part of the U.S. “Critical Manufacturing Sector” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including: iron and steel mills and ferrous alloy manufacturing, alumina and aluminum production and processing, and nonferrous metal production and processing. According to DHS, “The Critical Manufacturing Sector is crucial to the economic prosperity and continuity of the United States. A direct attack on or disruption of certain elements of the manufacturing industry could disrupt essential functions at the national level and across multiple critical infrastructure sectors.”
Recyclers also play an essential role in helping state and local governments manage their needs and responsibilities by providing a critical outlet for the recyclable materials generated within their communities, without which these valuable commodities would build up and be lost for supply to manufacturers, ending up wrongfully in the waste stream. Recyclers across the country work daily with local municipalities to ensure these recyclables are collected, processed and successfully enter the manufacturing supply chain. The vast majority of these recycling operations (often called Material Recovery Facilities, or MRFs) are for-profit operations and not government-owned, and are therefore at risk of being shut down by well-intended emergency measures. The ramifications would not only hurt manufacturing, but also prove contrary to the public health goals by complicating the entire residential curbside recycling system.