Resource Recycling News

US scrap paper and plastic exports fall

container ship at pier

First-quarter fiber exports to India dropped significantly from 2022 numbers; meanwhile, Thailand stepped up as the prime destination. | Canetti/Shutterstock

U.S. companies exported 8% less recovered fiber and 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 Resource Recycling analysis of recently released Census Bureau trade data shows the U.S. exported 3.95 million short tons of recovered fiber in the first quarter, down 8% from the first quarter of 2022. Exports of scrap plastics totaled 235 million pounds during the first quarter, down 10% year over year. 

Thailand now the No. 1 fiber recipient

The data showed some wild swings in where material was going, as well. For example, U.S. bales headed to India dropped by 446,000 short tons, or 37%, but shipments to Thailand surged year over year, increasing by 449,000 short tons, or 120%. 

The numbers in this article include various grades of recovered paper and paperboard but exclude pulp made from recycled materials. Recycled pulp makes up a relatively small amount of exported material. 

The top 10 destinations for fiber were as follows (all numbers are short tons): 

The chart below shows the changes (story continues below chart):

Plastic exports also drop

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

The top 10 destinations for recovered plastic were as follows: 

The chart below shows the changes: 

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