Billion Dollars

in 2020 revenue


Recycled Material

75%+ of the material processed by Harsco in 2020 was recycled or reused


Million Pounds

of bulk-making waste was diverted from traditional disposal to organic compost in 2020

The Path to Drawdown: Industrial Recycling

Project Drawdown defines recycling as the recovery of recyclable post-consumer waste (like metals, plastic, glass, etc.) from the industrial and residential sectors of the economy. Recycling is the alternative to dumping recyclable materials in landfills and reduces the need to use new material for production.

Waste from manufacturing, construction, restaurants, office buildings, schools and mines comprises about half of all waste. All that is grouped together as “industrial and commercial waste.” Much of it, though not all, can be recycled, and a variety of approaches can enhance recycling rates.

Some of these approaches include creating marketplaces for secondary materials to facilitate the exchange of recyclable and reusable goods, to innovate conversion technologies to make more materials recyclable, and adopting circular business models to recapture “waste” as a valuable resource.

Recycling industrial and commercial material can reduce GHG emissions because producing new products from recovered materials often saves energy. As one example, forging recycled aluminum products uses 95% less energy than creating them from virgin materials.

Project Drawdown estimates that, by 2050, a serious commitment to recycling can help avoid 6.02 gigatons of GHG emissions. To get there, recycling practices need to be adopted much more widely that they are now:

  • In 2014, 27% of recyclable waste was recycled
  • By 2050, 68% of recyclable materials should be recycled
  • That’s 2.6% CAGR between 2014 and 2050

If we can achieve this 68% recycling scenario, we can avoid up to 6.02 gigatons of GHG emissions.


Harsco Corporation (stock ticker: HSC) provides industrial recycling as well as industrial services and engineered products that serve large sectors like steel, railways, and energy. Headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Harsco Corporation operates in 30 countries.

HSC's Role in Drawdown

Harsco operates in three business segments, two of which are relevant for the Drawdown solution of industrial recycling.

The first segment, Harsco Environmental (p. 2), provides environmental services and material processing to the global steel and metals industries. It partners with its customer base to recover their primary waste or byproduct streams. These services support the metal manufacturing process, helping customers focus on their core steelmaking businesses.

Their second segment, Harsco Clean Earth (p. 4), provides processing and reuse solutions for hazardous wastes, contaminated materials, and dredged volumes. Harsco Clean Earth now operates 19 treatment, storage, and disposal facilities and 51 transfer facilities across the US, serving more than 90,000 customer locations. Approximately 94% of the waste handled by this segment is recycled or reused.

In 2020, the Environmental segment accounted for 49% and the Clean Earth segment Accounted for 33% of Harsco’s total revenue (p. 1), respectively.

HSC: What We Like

Harsco has acquired several companies in the last few years in an effort to expand their reach and capacity in the industrial recycling sector:

  • Harsco acquired Altek in 2018, a manufacturer of products that enable aluminum producers and recyclers to manage and extract value from critical waste streams, reduce waste generation, and improve operating productivity
  • A year later, they acquired Clean Earth, a company focused on analyzing, treating, documenting and recycling hazardous waste streams generated across many diverse end-markets in the infrastructure, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors. Today this business is Harsco’s Clean Earth segment.
  • In their latest acquisition, Harsco acquired the environmental solutions business from Stericycle, Inc., which provides a portfolio of hazardous waste disposal solutions across the industrial, retail and healthcare markets

On top of these acquisitions, Harsco also set their first energy and emissions reduction goal (p. 20) in 2020:

  • They plan to reduce the energy and carbon intensity of their operations by 15% by 2025, compared to their 2019 baseline
  • In 2021, they’re assessing opportunities to procure renewable energy for their operations in the US
  • Also in 2021, Harsco is working with an energy efficiency consulting firm to evaluate the thermal treatment plants in their Clean Earth business, whose use of natural gas constitutes the company’s largest source of emissions in the division
  • In 2022, Harsco will be disclosing their climate risk analysis using the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures guidelines

HSC: What We Want to See Improve

Set More Aggressive Targets

We applaud Harsco’s target of reducing their energy and carbon intensity by 15% by 2025 (p. 39). But ultimately, we think this target is too modest. First, we want to see commitments to reduce absolute emissions rather than emissions intensity. Next, we urge Harsco to think bigger by aiming for deeper cuts, rather than just 15%. Last and very importantly, we want them to set their sights on 2050, when Harsco’s absolute emissions should reach as close to zero as possible.

Electrify the Fleet

We applaud the efforts that Harsco is making to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. For example, GPS tracking has helped them improve the efficiency of vehicle movements and reduce over 230,000 gallons of diesel fuel (p. 21) consumed by their fleet in 2020. But with a fleet of over 700 vehicles (p. 4) with 0% use of renewable sources of energy (p. 39), saving on diesel fuel is only a small dent in their overall emissions. We urge Harsco to formulate a strategy to transition to zero-emission vehicles within this decade.

Switch to Clean Banks

Harsco and their subsidiaries have obtained loans from a number of large multinational banks (p. 114) in the last decade. Unfortunately, many of these banks are the world’s largest funders of fossil fuel companies and enable these high-emitting industries to survive. We urge Harsco to stop patronizing these financial institutions, and instead seek loans from banks without ties to oil, gas or coal companies.

Other Industrial Recycling Stocks in the Climate Index

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