Better recycling programs will create millions of jobs (and save the planet too)

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Yesterday was “America Recycles Day” and, if nothing else, it has shown that people love talking about recycling. Many businesses have been taking great steps to encourage their patrons to recycle – like Bud Light’s Recycling Zone, or YellowPages’ Opt-Out – but these types of recycling programs have existed for years, without making significant differences. While the recycling rates in the United States are still increasing, they are doing so at a rate far slower than they even were in the late 80’s.

With all of the recent amazing environmental technologies and inventions we’ve seen hit the market, shouldn’t the percent of waste we are recycling be rising much higher?


The facts

Recycling Rates
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The diagram inset right provided by the Environmental Protection Agency shows the average recycling rate is currently at about 34% of the waste we produce [MSW = Municipal Solid Waste]. The sad fact is, people aren’t recycling as much as they should (and could) be.

In fact, on average last year each American was generating 4.43 pounds of waste per day, and only recycling or composting about 1.5 pounds of that. Think about the massive amount of perfectly recyclable material which must be thrown out as part of that non-recycled waste – and the effect it is having on our planet.



More Jobs, Less Pollution

More Jobs, Less Pollution is the name of a new report created by the Tellus Institute for the Blue Green Alliance, Teamsters, SEIU, NRDC, Recycling Works, and GAIA that explores the impacts better recycling programs would have on the environment, job creation, and the economy. Their goal is to increase the current recycling rate from 34% to 75% by 2030, which they assert would take approximately 515 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (eMTCO2) out of the air, which is the equivalent of shutting down 72 coal power plants, in addition to creating 2.3 million jobs.

But wait – why would recycling programs create more jobs than waste programs? After all, people have to work to get junk into the landfill too, right? Well, partially. But at a much lower rate. The More Jobs, Less Pollution report states,

The job creation data reveal that waste disposal is not labor intensive and generates the fewest jobs per ton of waste (0.1 job per 1,000 tons)[…] Processing of recyclables (1 to 2 jobs per 1,000 tons) and organics (.5 jobs per 1,000 tons) is somewhat more labor intensive.

So not only is recycling a greener choice, it is also inherently better for the economy.

Find out more about the incredible impact a better recycling program would have on our environment and economy by downloading the full More Jobs, Less Pollution PDF report.


Banner Image via timtak on Flickr, street photo via scjody

  • Ian Andrew

    As the Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greener Ideal, Ian has been a driving force in environmental journalism and sustainable lifestyle advocacy since 2008. With over a decade of dedicated involvement in environmental matters, Ian has established himself as a respected expert in the field. Under his leadership, Greener Ideal has consistently delivered independent news and insightful content that empowers readers to engage with and understand pressing environmental issues.

    Ian’s expertise extends beyond editorial leadership; his hands-on experience in exploring and implementing sustainable practices equips him with practical knowledge that resonates with both industry professionals and eco-conscious audiences. This blend of direct involvement and editorial oversight has positioned Ian as a credible and authoritative voice in environmental journalism and sustainable living.

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