Closing The Loop On Global Recycling

Anthony Pettinari et al

Research Organisation

Report Date
Feb. 2, 2020

Document summary

The ~$40 trillion global consumer economy is incredibly diverse and shaped by significant political and cultural differences. However there is one belief consumers in all regions and sectors of the global economy seem to share — recycling is good.

Recycling systems have always grappled questions around profitability and ownership: What products should get recycled? Which governmental authority should mandate it? How much are consumers willing to subsidize it? However, one recent seismic policy change has thrown global recycling systems into chaos: China's decision to effectively ban the importation of half of the world’s scrap plastic, paper, and metal. This drastic policy change has made recycled (i.e., scrap) materials in North America and Europe incredibly cheap — now instead of getting paid for their recycled material, many municipalities have to pay to haul away what is essentially garbage.

In this in depth analysis of the state of the global market for recycling, Citi unpick the tangled web of connections and cut to the heart of what is needed to deliver effective and financial sustainable recycling networks. For further information on Citi’s Global Perspectives and Solutions (GPS) programme on environmental economics visit