Celebrate ISRI’s
HISTORY & Future
Roads and bridges that connect us. Electrical wires that power our homes. Hospital ventilators that sustain life. For more than 100 years, the recycled materials industry has provided resources that Americans depend on—from everyday items to essential infrastructure—by inventing new solutions and technologies.
See how ISRI and our members have served as the voice for an industry that’ssecuring our nation’s supply chain while ensuring a more sustainable future.
An Industry
Born of Ingenuity
EARLY 1900s
During the Second Industrial Revolution—which started in the late 1800s—millions of immigrants seek better lives in America. Many find opportunity as peddlers of recycled metals, paper, rags, glass, bones, hides, and other materials. At the same time, the recycled materials industry starts mechanizing through the use of materials like gas-cutting torches, alligator shears, and lifting magnets.
The National
Association of Waste
Material Dealers is
formed in Boston.
The National Association of Waste Material Dealers is formed in Boston. The group renames itself to the National Association of Secondary Material Industries in 1960, and the National Association of Recycling Industries in 1974.
1914 – 1915

The National Association of Recycling Industries—the predecessor to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI)—publishes the first industry specifications, now known as the ISRI Specifications Circular. Still used today, the Circular provides guidelines for buying and selling a variety of processed scrap commodities.

1916 – 1918
Addressing shortages
during world war i
Recycling rises to meet wartime demand during World War I, helping to address shortages of raw materials needed for weapons, tanks, and ships. The slogan, “Don’t Waste It–Save It.” becomes a rallying cry.
A Second
Trade Association
The institute of scrap
iron and steel was
20 or so ferrous scrap recyclers come together in New York City to form the group that becomes the Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel, the recycled materials industry’s second national trade association. The organization would later establish a research foundation to drive recycling production and quality standards.
Essentials for
the War Effort
The start of recycling
Recycling demand rises to meet U.S. war production needs during World War II. Citizens participate in recycling drives to collect everything from clothes and paper to metals and rubber.
Organizing To
Strengthen Our Industry
A Lifelong career in
ISRI Century Club member Barry Wolff details what his lifelong career in the recycled materials industry and ISRI mean to him.
JUNE 1980
Industry was
beginning to grow up
Association leaders meet to discuss the value and origin of organization.
The Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel and the National Association of Recycling Industries merge to form the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).
JUNE 1987
A Merger for the Ages
ISRI Century Club Co-Chair Barry Hunter remembers the task of merging ISRI predecessor organizations ISIS and NARI to form ISRI in 1987.
Passing Key Legislation
Superfund recycling
equity act
ISRI and our members secure passage of the Superfund Recycling Equity Act (SREA), after intense lobbying and grassroots efforts. SREA corrects an unintended consequence of the Superfund that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of Superfund liability being imposed on the recycling industry.
Growing Strong
and Sustainably
Acquisition of tires
and rubber
ISRI acquires the National Association of Scrap Tire Processors, whose members become our Tire and Rubber Division and Scrap Tire Processors Chapter.
RIOS is developed
ISRI develops RIOS™, the Recycling Industry Operating Standard™, the first management system standard designed for the recycled materials industry. The RIOS™ approach has since been adopted by companies across all industries because of its effectiveness in addressing Quality, Environmental, Health, and Safety risks and impacts.
ISRI Defeats Effort to Impose Export Controls on Copper and Brass
ISRI and our members defeat efforts by the copper and brass industry to impose export controls on recycled copper and copper-alloy.
Addressing industry
safety and
ISRI forms the National Safety Committee (later renamed the ISRI Safety and Environmental Council) to address the industry’s safety and environmental challenges.
National Vehicle
Mercury Switch
Recovery Program
ISRI collaborates with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other groups to establish the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program, designed to remove up to 90% of mercury light switches from recycled vehicles.
The rise act
ISRI successfully lobbies Congress to enact the RISE Act, a depreciation allowance on recycling equipment. RISE allows taxpayers to claim accelerated depreciation for the purchase of machinery or equipment used to collect, distribute, or recycle a variety of commodities.
ISRI acquires the
Association of
Electronics Recyclers
IAER represented and served the interests of the electronics recycling industry as a key element in the development of an effective and efficient infrastructure for managing the life cycle of electronic products.
Leading the Way
for Worker Safety
ISRI creates the circle
of safety excellence
The (COSE) program, is the culmination of our safety programs and services. COSE helps us prioritize worker, vehicle, and facility safety within the recycling industry. Member companies share best practices and safety data to help drive evidence-based safety practices and benchmarks.
Ushering in a New Era
Celebrating Heritage While Looking to the Future
Formation of ISRI’s century club and the vital role they plan in maintaining the heritage of the recycled materials industry.
ISRI leading the way
ISRI continues to lead the way for promoting new technologies and processes such as using artificial intelligence (AI) for detecting and separating recyclables based on factors like shape, density, elemental composition, and color. ISRI maintains its efforts to partner with consumer brands and companies to help them recycle more, use more recycled materials, and design their products to be recycled more easily—supporting national and global decarbonization goals.