When I think of a green economy I typically think of the clean energy industry. Unfortunately the solar industry has taken a bit of a hit in the media lately and this has expanded into the green jobs movement as a whole. However, a new report may help Americans like myself associate a green economy with a different eco-friendly industry – recycling.
The report, More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S., examines the impact that increased recycling would have on the nation’s job market. If more Americans recycled their trash and the nation achieved a 75 percent waste diversion rate, an additional 1.5 million new jobs could be created by 2030.
So what industries would benefit from an increase in recycling? Obviously some one has to pick up the waste and so the waste disposal industry, including landfill and incineration companies, would see an increase in jobs. The recycling industry would also see more demand but so would industries that rely on the recycling industry for their products. The final industry that would see direct job growth is the reuse and remanufacturing industry.
In addition to determining which industries would see job growth, the report also identifies which type of recyclable item creates the most jobs. The waste disposal process only generates 0.1 jobs per 1,000 tons of waste. Plastic, on the other hand, is a job generating recyclable. Approximately 10 jobs per 1,000 tons of waste are needed to keep the plastics manufacturing industry going. In a plastic-loving country, this is good news for the job market.
There is also another benefit to increased recycling – reduced pollution. A 75 percent waste diversion rate would eliminate 276 million metric tons of pollution by 2030. To put this into better perspective, this is equivalent to taking 72 million cars off the roads of the nation or removing the pollution emitted by 72 coal-fired power plants. This is a significant figure.
Read more of the findings by downloading the report from the Natural Resources Defense Council website: More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S. (PDF).