The Top Cotton Producers
Cotton is present in our everyday life, from clothes to coffee strainers, and more recently in masks to control the spread of COVID-19.
As the most-used natural fiber, cotton has become the most important non-food agricultural product. Currently, approximately half of all textiles require cotton fibers.
The above infographic lists the world’s top cotton producers, using data from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Originating from the Arabic word “quton,” meaning fancy fabric, cotton is a staple fiber made up of short fibers twisted together to form yarn.
The earliest production of cotton was around 5,000 B.C. in India, and today, around 25 million tons of cotton are produced each year.
Currently, five countries make up around 75% of global cotton production, with China being the world’s biggest producer. The country is responsible for over 23% of global production, with approximately 89 million cotton farmers and part-time workers. Cotton’s importance cannot be understated, as it is the primary input for the Chinese textile industry along with many other nations’ textile industries.
|Top Cotton Producers||2020/2021 (metric tons)||2021/2022 (metric tons)|
|🇺🇸 United States||3,181,000||3,815,000|
The United States is the leading global exporter of cotton, exporting three-fourths of its crop with China as the top buyer.
Despite its importance for the global economy, cotton production faces significant sustainability challenges.
The Controversy Over Cotton
Cotton is one of the largest users of water among all agricultural commodities, and production often involves applying pesticides that threaten soil and water quality.
Along with this, production often involves forced and child labor. According to the European Commission, child labor in the cotton supply chain is most common in Africa and Asia, where it comes from small-holder farmers.
In 2020, U.S. apparel maker Patagonia stopped sourcing cotton from the autonomous territory of Xinjiang because of reports about forced labor and other human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.
L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has also committed to eliminating Chinese cotton from its supply chain. Whether these changes in supply chains impact China’s cotton production and its practices, cotton remains essential to materials found across our daily lives.
Mapped: U.S. Mineral Production Value by State in 2022
U.S. mineral production value increased by 4% YoY in 2022 to reach $98.2 billion. Which states contributed the most to domestic mineral production?
U.S. States Ranked by the Value of their Mineral Production
The U.S. produced $98.2 billion worth of nonfuel minerals in 2022, but which states made up the majority of the mining?
This map uses data from the USGS to map and rank U.S. states by the value of their nonfuel mineral production in 2022.
The ranking takes into account the mining of nonfuel minerals that are split into two main categories: metallic minerals (like gold, copper, or silver), and industrial minerals (like phosphate rock, various types of clay, and crushed stone).
The Top Mineral-Producing States in the U.S.
Arizona tops the list of mineral-producing states, with $10.1 billion worth of minerals which account for 10.3% of the U.S. total, largely due to the state’s prolific copper production. The state of Arizona accounted for around 70% of domestic copper production in 2022, and as a result also produces large amounts of molybdenum as a byproduct.
The state of Nevada was the next top mineral producer at $8.9 billion worth of minerals, thanks to its longstanding leadership in gold mining (accounting for 72% of U.S. gold production in 2022) and by having the only operating lithium project in America.
States in the Western region of the U.S. dominate the ranking of top mineral-producing states, holding the top two spots and making up half of the top 10 when it comes to total mineral production value.
|Rank||State||Mineral Production Value (2022)||Share of U.S. total|
*The value of these states is a partial total which excludes withheld values by the USGS to avoid disclosing company proprietary data. Rankings remain unaffected which is why some states may rank higher than others despite having a lower value.
Texas rounds out the top three at $8 billion worth of minerals produced in 2022, largely thanks to its dominant production of crushed stone. The state of Texas was the top producer of crushed stone in 2022 at more than $2.8 billion worth, nearly double that of the next largest producer, Florida, which produced $1.5 billion worth.
What Minerals is the U.S. Producing the Most of?
Nonfuel mineral production is categorized into two main categories by the USGS, metals/metallic minerals and industrial minerals.
While not as shiny, the produced value of industrial minerals far outweighs that of metallic minerals. While $34.7 billion worth of metals were produced in 2022, industrial mineral production value was nearly double at $63.5 billion.
Construction aggregates like construction sand and gravel along with crushed stone made up almost half of industrial minerals production at $31.4 billion, with crushed stone being the leading mineral commodity overall at $21 billion of production value.
Following crushed stone, the next top minerals produced but the U.S. were (in decreasing order of value): cement, copper, construction sand and gravel, and gold.
Although the value of metals production decreased by 6% compared to 2021, industrial minerals production increased by 10% year-over-year, resulting in an overall increase in America’s overall nonfuel mineral production of 4%.
Visualizing the Opportunity Cost of Unrecycled Metals in the U.S.
Exploring the quantity and dollar value of recycled metals in the U.S. by visualizing metal recycling ratios.
The Opportunity Cost of Unrecycled Metals in the U.S.
Metals are an essential resource for modern society, used in everything from construction and transportation to technology and medical equipment. As the demand for these minerals continues to grow, so does the amount of waste generated by their production and consumption.
Recycling this metal waste is not just a win for sustainability; it also has huge economic benefits. In the visual above, we explore the ratio of recycled vs. unrecycled metals in the U.S. using 2020 Recycling Statistics by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Metal Recycling in the U.S.
Opportunity cost is a concept that refers to the benefits that are forgone when choosing one option over another. In the case of unrecycled metals, the opportunity cost is the potential economic and environmental benefits that could have been achieved through increasing metal recycling ratios.
Below are the recycling rates for select metals in the U.S. in 2020.
|Metal||% of supply recycled|
|Iron & Steel||52|
The above recycled metals represented a dollar value of $26 billion in 2020. Their unrecycled counterparts, on the other hand, represented $28 billion.
Metals can either be recycled from scrap that results from the manufacturing process (known as “new scrap”) or scrap from post-consumer products (“old scrap.”) Regardless of the source, many of them, especially chromium, copper, and tin, have the potential to reap further sustainability and economic benefits by recycling a larger proportion of their scrap supplies.
The Case for Metal Recycling
When compared with the mining, processing and transport of new metals, recycling metals can provide a significantly less energy-intensive alternative, saving enough energy each year to power millions of homes in the U.S.
Recycling metals can also save natural resources, create more green jobs, and reduce a country’s dependency on mineral imports by supplementing its supply of raw materials.
Overall, the potential for metal recycling is vast, and taking steps to increase the amount of recycled metals in the U.S. can lead to even greater sustainability and economic benefits.
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