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):
- Thailand received 824,000 tons (up 120%).
- India received 754,000 tons (down 37%).
- Mexico received 587,000 tons (down 5%).
- Vietnam received 432,000 tons (down 13%).
- Malaysia received 291,000 tons (up 8%).
- Taiwan received 234,000 tons (down 16%).
- South Korea received 197,000 tons (down 6%).
- Canada received 184,000 short tons (down 10%).
- China received 116,000 tons (down 20%).
- Indonesia received 106,000 tons (up 14%).
- The rest of the world combined received 226,000 tons (down 42%).
The chart below shows the changes (story continues below chart):