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“One of the biggest issues we face is that often when people think of scrap or recyclables, they think of waste, and scrap and waste are two very different things,” says Robin Wiener, President of the Washington DC-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). Wiener goes on to explain that while waste is material that has reached the end of its useful life and will end up in a landfill, scrap material gets recycled into commodity-grade products. In fact, more than 40% of the raw material needs of global manufacturing is met through scrap products.

As an annual purchaser of over $5.6 billion worth of US-based scrap materials, China has played an integral part as a major consumer of US-based recyclable goods. But in the face of a massive environmental crisis, China is implementing serious change, including increased restrictions on the import of goods. Weiner discusses the cause and effect of these restrictions and the way in which the US is responding. As part of the effort to mitigate these changes, ISRI is working closely with US-based manufacturers to increase the use of recyclable materials in their manufacturing processes, identifying the challenges that prevent certain goods and products from being recycled, and exploring solutions to those challenges.

Also discussed is the US Department of Energy REMADE Institute, whose efforts in enabling early-stage applied R&D to reduce embodied energy and carbon emissions are closely tied to recycling. Wiener addresses a range of interesting and informative topics–all of which implicate the future of the US and the world at large.

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