Plastics Recycling Update

US scrap plastic exports fall

In the first quarter of 2023, Malaysia took in less than half the scrap plastic it did one year earlier; meanwhile, Bangladesh received just over four times as much. | Chenxueting/Shutterstock

U.S. companies exported 10% less scrap plastic during the first quarter of 2023 than they did a year earlier, and there were some dramatic changes in where material was flowing.

A Plastics Recycling Update analysis of recently released Census Bureau trade data shows the U.S. exported 235 million pounds of scrap plastics during the first quarter, down 10% from the same period a year prior

Census Bureau data also showed wild swings in overseas destinations for material. For example, shipments to India increased notably, while exports to Malaysia and Mexico plummeted.

The top 10 destinations for recovered plastic were as follows: 

  • Canada received 83.5 million pounds (up 7%). 
  • Mexico received 44.1 million pounds (down 18%). 
  • India received 32.3 million pounds (up 40%). 
  • Malaysia received 14.3 million pounds (down 57%). 
  • Indonesia received 10.4 million pounds (down 32%). 
  • Germany received 9.0 million pounds (no change). 
  • Vietnam received 9.0 million pounds (up 27%). 
  • Spain received 3.9 million pounds (up 35%). 
  • Bangladesh received 3.5 million pounds (up 405%).
  • Turkey received 3.3 million pounds (down 51%). 
  • The rest of the world combined took in 21.1 million pounds (down 32%). 

The chart below shows the changes: 

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