A new report released by London-based Friends of Earth finds that if the country were to achieve a 70 percent recycling rate, it would create 51,400 jobs in the UK.
These jobs are not solely limited to collecting material and running municipal recycling programs. It would also include employment in supply chains to improve the recyclability of products, as well as processing companies and businesses that buy recycled content material.
Also, the number would potentially jump another 18,800 jobs if industrial waste was recycled at a 70 percent clip.
Mentioned in the study was how recycling has influenced job growth in the United States, specifically how one recycling job also creates indirect and induced jobs based on increased economic activity. The U.S. EPA reports that this number totals 1.1 million people and produces $236 billion in annual revenue.
As a point of reference, the recycling/composting rate in the U.S. was 33 percent in 2008, while in the U.K. it was 34.5 percent over 2007 and 2008. However, while the U.S. has not set any national recycling rate targets, the UK has committed to a 50 percent minimum recycling rate by 2020 by law. Other European Union countries have set targets as high as 70 percent.
Achieving 50 percent waste diversion would mean less recycling jobs created than a 70 percent rate, but it would still mean more than 25,000 new jobs. The British solid waste industry was responsible for 118,000 jobs in 2008, when the country processed more than 32 million tons of waste.
“The Government must be ambitious in setting recycling rates,” said Julian Kirby of Friends of the Earth. “Better product design, as well as action to stop supermarkets and producers selling products that can’t be recycled, means that we could easily achieve upwards of 75 percent recycling rates by 2025.”
One additional economic impact not discussed in this study is the cost difference of taking material to a landfill versus recycling it. Cities and counties pay a tipping fee to deposit material at a landfill, while recyclables can earn a profit depending on the market for material. This can often be a deciding factor on what material is accepted in a curbside program.