Canada remains the top destination for U.S. exports of plastic bales, taking in 10% more of them this year than it did in 2022. | StockStudio/Shutterstock

Exports of recovered plastics fell during the first six months of 2023, newly released federal trade statistics show.

The Census Bureau recently published data for June exports, allowing Plastics Recycling Update to compare statistics from the first half of 2023 to those from the prior year.

U.S. companies exported 474 million pounds of scrap plastic during the first half of 2023, down 7% year over year. The top 10 destinations experienced some notable swings in the amount of material they took from the U.S. For example, shipments to Malaysia dropped 43%, but Vietnam boosted its consumption by 25%.

The chart below shows changes in the top 10 destinations (story continues below chart):

The following were the top 10 destinations: 

  • Canada received 177 million pounds (up 10%). 
  • Mexico received 86 million pounds (down 7%). 
  • India received 56 million pounds (up 6%). 
  • Malaysia received 29 million pounds (down 43%). 
  • Indonesia received 21 million pounds (down 18%).
  • Vietnam received 20 million pounds (up 25%). 
  • Germany received 13 million pounds (down 31%). 
  • Spain received 11 million pounds (up 78%). 
  • Pakistan received 9 million pounds (up 41%).
  • Turkey received 7 million pounds (down 53%). 
  • The rest of the world combined received 46 million pounds (down 31%).

During the first quarter of 2023, plastic exports dropped by 10% year over year. 

Paper and cardboard scrap exports also decreased during the first half of the year, dropping 16%.

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