Increasing Recycling Will Create Nearly 1.5 Million Jobs, Reduce Pollution

New report finds recycling 75 percent of the nation’s waste will create nearly 1.5 million jobs by 2030 while significantly reducing pollution, saving water and energy, and building economically strong and healthy communities.

November 14, 2011

San Francisco event kicks off release of report in advance of National Recycling Day

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (November 14, 2011) Recycling 75 percent of the nation’s waste will create nearly 1.5 million jobs by 2030 while significantly reducing pollution, saving water and energy, and building economically strong and healthy communities, according to a new study released today by leading labor and environmental groups. The national report More Jobs, Less Pollution was released ahead of National Recycling Day on November 15 at an event attended by San Francisco Department of the Environment Director Melanie Nutter and local labor and environmental leaders.

“San Francisco’s goal of Zero Waste is not only important for our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but it equally provides opportunities for local residents to gain good paying green jobs – it’s a win-win for the environment and our local communities,” said Melanie Nutter, Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.“To date we are at 78 percent waste diversion and have created over 500 green jobs in the City at the same time.”

More Jobs, Less Pollution also shows that while the vast majority of municipal solid waste nationwide can be readily recycled, re-used, or composted, only 33 percent is currently diverted from disposal, and only 30 percent of the 178 million tons of construction and demolition debris is recycled. Most of our waste is still sent to landfills and incinerators. By implementing a bold national recycling and composting strategy of 75 percent waste diversion rate by 2030, the report shows that we can create much needed local jobs, save resources like water, and reduce pollution andother environmental pollutants that harm human health.

“This report verifies yet another example of the enormous job creating opportunities that lie in confronting our biggest environmental challenges,” said Lisa Hoyos, California Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Recycling creates jobs, particularly in manufacturing, it reduces pollution and it will build a stronger economy all around. Job creation and environmental protection must be at the top of our priority list. We can and must move this country toward a 75 percent recycling rate.”

By diverting 75 percent of the nation’s waste, including municipal and construction and demolition waste, our nation would reduce emissions by 276 million metric tons by 2030, or the equivalent of eliminating emissions from 72 coal-fired power plants or taking 50 million cars off the road.

San Francisco recycling worker Ryan McKee’s story is a true example of how expanding and upgrading recycling programs creates local, permanent jobs. “I was unemployed but got a full-time job as a sorter as the city expanded the recycling program. That job allowed me to pay the rent, buy groceries, and provide medical benefits for my new family,” said McKee. “While working at Recology’s recycling plant in San Francisco, I studied for and passed the Class A commercial driver’s license test and the company gave me additional training so I could become a compost collection truck driver.”

Today’s event at San Francisco City Hall officially launched the national release of More Jobs, Less Pollution. San Francisco is a nationwide leader in recycling. Recently, San Francisco reached a 78 percent waste diversion rate that resulted in the creation of hundreds of local jobs and reductions in pollution and exposure to other harmful toxins.

“Recycling conserves natural resources, cuts global warming pollution, and saves water and energy,” said Darby Hoover, Senior Resource Specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This new report shows that not only is recycling good for the environment, it’s good for the economy. By expanding recycling, we can create jobs and help protect the environment at the same time.”

More Jobs, Less Pollution was prepared for the BlueGreen Alliance, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Service Employees International Union, Recycling Works! and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) by the Tellus Institute.

“Recycling creates jobs—a national priority. And recycling does this while reducing pollution and conserving resources and energy. Recycling can do so much that expensive incinerators and unproductive landfills cannot do for our communities. As cities make decisions about how to manage waste,” said Christine Keith, Executive Director of GAIA, “they should invest in good, safe jobs in recycling, composting, and reuse.”