Recycling and Jobs

By now, most of us know the environmental benefits of recycling well—decreased energy use, slower depletion of raw materials, less strain on landfills—but recycling has a host of economic benefits that are just as compelling.

Simply put, recycling creates jobs.

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, while overall US employment was growing by 2.1% each year between 1967 and 2000, the recycling industry saw annual job growth of over 8%.

Image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons license

Image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons license

Where does that job growth come from? For starters, when we send 10,000 tons of trash to the landfill, an average of just 6.6 jobs are created. But when we collect and process that same amount of recycling, the job creation averages 36.7.

And then there are the jobs created to manufacture new products using recycled materials. Let’s use that 10,000 ton figure again. If it’s 10,000 tons of metals, an average of 176 jobs are created. For plastic, it’s 103 jobs—and 79 jobs for glass, and 42 for paper. (These figures come from the Tellus Institute.)

Altogether, job creation from recycling is 15 times greater than job creation from landfilling waste.

We can project what this could mean when pay-as-you-throw comes into the picture. Imagine if every US town and city put pay-as-you-throw in place—that would cut residential solid waste almost by half, dramatically increase recycling volumes, and create as much as 225,000 new jobs by 2030. (For comparison, that’s just about the population of Baton Rouge, Lousiana.)

Pay-as-you-throw makes more recycling, and more recycling makes more jobs. What else do you need to know?

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