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Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Recycling Can Create 2.3 Million Jobs According to NRDC Report

Every major project creates jobs - indeed the Keystone pipeline would have created many jobs and in this economy, who doesn't want that? However, there is a cleaner way to create jobs than indulge in environmentally harmful projects like the pipeline or Tar Sands. One of them is recycling. Recently, a report released by the NRDC in collaboration with BlueGreen Alliance, Teamsters, SEIU, Recycling Works! and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives entitled "More Jobs, Less Pollution" shows that a 75 percent national recycling rate would create nearly 2.3 million jobs while reducing pollution by 2030.

The report was released ahead of National Recycling Day to not only highlight the importance of recycling but also to highlight how investing in more recycling facilities can increase the number of jobs in the US. For the past 20 years, the United States has a pretty dismal rate of recycling, hovering around only 27 percent.

Countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria lead the pack by recycling more than 50 percent of their wastes. Recycling is a tremendous backbone of the economy. In 2007, the US generated $236 billion in revenue and employed over a million people. That year, the industry accounted for about 2 percent of the GDP. The report only talks about recycling 75 percent of municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris and it doesn't include information about industrial waste.

The report predicts that recycling will also reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to 72 coal-fired plants or taking 50 million cars off the road. This is will definitely reduce toxic emissions that impact human and ecosystem health. Recycling reduces the amount of energy used to produce new products. For example, using recycled aluminum eliminates almost 96 percent of the energy and emissions created from producing it from pure bauxite ore.

The report listed three sectors in which jobs would be created:

  1. Recycling Industries: collection and processing of recyclables to make them available for use in new industrial processes

  2. Recycling Reliant Industries: those that purchase secondary materials from the recycling industry

  3. Reuse and Remanufacturing Industries: industries that directly reuse and/or remanufacture products for their original use

In spite of the fact that many cities in the US like San Francisco and Seattle are paying more attention to municipal solid waste recycling and have set ambitious targets for themselves, overall recycling rates in the country remain low. When it comes to construction and demolition (C&D) recycling, Massachusetts has one of the most successful programs in the country. In 2010, it was estimated that out of 3.8 million tons of C&D debris generated, more than 3 million tons were diverted for an overall diversion rate of about 80 percent. By targeting specific areas like this, not only will recycling gain more traction but could pave the way towards a more robust economy.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotAkhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

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