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ISRI Update: Recyclers Tout Benefits of Scrap Exports During World Trade Month / New Study: Impossible to Tell if State Metal Theft Legislation Deters Crime

ISRI Update: Recyclers Tout Benefits of Scrap Exports During World Trade Month / New Study: Impossible to Tell if State Metal Theft Legislation Deters Crime

Commodities have a significant global impact  
Wrapping up World Trade Month, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries extolled the important role scrap materials play in global trade, both for the U.S. and foreign countries. Scrap materials are in the top 5 U.S.’s exports based on value, helping to supply the world’s growing demand for all commodities, including metals, plastics, electronics, rubber and more.

“Global trade is integral to the recycling industry, resulting in hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI.

“In any given year, 30 to 40 percent of scrap is processed for export. In 2013, commodity grade scrap products were exported to 160 countries worldwide, generating nearly $24 billion in export sales and significantly helping the U.S. balance of trade.”

Nearly 40 percent of the more than 460,000 jobs in the recycling industry in 2013 involved the process and sale of scrap for export. This amounted to nearly 185,000 workers, including 56,000 people processing and brokering materials, 52,000 suppliers of either materials, machinery, or services to the processors, and 76,000 suppliers of general goods and services to those working in the industry. In addition to job creation, the exporting of scrap creates revenue.  On top of the nearly $24 billion in sales in 2013, scrap exports generated $3.5 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments.

“The benefit of exporting scrap goes well beyond the U.S. economy,” said Wiener. “Around the world, people gain access to used electronic products that might not otherwise be available. New recycling technologies and best management practices are shared across borders. Safe and responsible recycling infrastructures are built in developing nations. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are created in importing nations, all thanks to recycling.”

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has long been a supporter of the free trade of goods and services around the world and continues to support the removal of barriers to trade. Earlier this month, ISRI submitted comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission’s investigation of the economic impacts of removing tariff barriers on a wide range of environmental goods including scrap commodities and scrap recycling equipment. ISRI supports the World Trade Organization’s recently announced plans to launch talks aimed at eliminating tariffs on the trade of environmental goods between 14 countries that represent 86 percent of the global trade in environmental goods.  

New Study: Impossible to Tell if State Metal Theft Legislation Deters Crime: Lack of data prohibits evaluation of legislative impacts
According to a new study released by The Council of State Governments (CSG), in collaboration with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), there is an insufficient tracking of metal theft data needed to properly analyze the effect of new state laws aimed at reducing the crime.

During the 2013-14 legislative sessions, there were more than 220 bills introduced with the goal of stopping metals theft, with 51 being passed into law. Given the many variations in the laws, researchers set out to determine which, if any, were effective in reducing crime.

“All 50 states have laws on the books dealing with metal theft crimes and all have differing regulations, requirements, penalties, and other variables,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI.

“New laws and regulations are often the result of political reactions to high-profile crimes without any real analysis of how to address the crime as a whole. To solve this, the scrap recycling industry sought to find out if crime rates could shed any light on what laws seem to work best when it came to reducing the crime of metals theft. Armed with this knowledge, we can work with state legislatures to pass more effective legislation.”

The CSG researchers found that the lack of metal theft crime data was due to the following reasons:
There are no states that comprehensively and uniformly track the number of metal thefts;
Current data is “insufficient to accurately reflect the true rate of metal theft for purposes of state-level analysis;” and
The “quality and accuracy” of available local data cannot be verified for statistical review.

“The study shows the immense need for a uniform method to track metals theft crimes, arrests, and prosecution,” said Wiener. “Once in place, policymakers will have a much more accurate picture of this serious problem facing communities across the country and how to address it. The recycling industry looks forward to working closely with all stakeholders to best accomplish this task so the most effective types of legislation can be enacted in the states.”

ISRI uses a variety of innovative partnerships and technology in its efforts to be part of the solution when it comes to fighting metal theft. Earlier this year, it formed the Materials Theft Law Enforcement Advisory Council, a select group of experienced law enforcement officers, prosecutors and security personnel from around the country. The council advises ISRI on programming and resources it can offer to the law enforcement community and will play an integral role in the determining the best way to collect the data needed on metal theft.

ISRI also recently launched an upgraded version of, a free tool for law enforcement that allows police to alert the scrap industry of significant thefts of materials in the United States and Canada. Upon validation and review, alerts are broadcast by email to all subscribed users within a 100 mile radius of where the incident occurred. The system boasts more than 17,000 active users and has recovered nearly $1.4 million in stolen property.

A copy of the full study can be found on the CSG website.  

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