Recycling is one of the most common of all environmental activities, and it’s also a great way to save natural resources. Recycling keeps useful materials out of landfills and incinerators, and using recovered materials to make new products and packages saves energy, water, and resources such as trees and metal ores.
Recycling reduces global warming pollution, too. A 2011 report prepared by the Tellus Institute, More Jobs, Less Pollution, found that if we can increase the national recycling rate to 75% by 2030, we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 515 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent, which is equal to shutting down about 72 coal-fired power plants or taking 50 million cars off the road.
Recycling helps the economy as well as the environment – recycling is more labor-intensive than landfilling or incineration, which means that building the recycling industry is a way to create more jobs. The 2011 Tellus report found that moving from the current 34% national recycling rate to a 75% national recycling rate would create 1.5 million new jobs.
There is no national law that mandates recycling. State and local governments often introduce recycling requirements. A number of U.S.states,including California,Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont have passed laws that establish deposits or refund values on beverage containers while other jurisdictions rely on recycling goals or landfill bans of recyclable materials.
Some cities, such as New York City and Seattle, have created laws that enforce fines upon citizens who throw away certain recyclable materials. There are also voluntary programs and educational programs to increase recycling where it is not mandated by law.
Mandatory recycling is the standard across all European Union since the 1990s and makes cities improve. Recyclables are prohibited from households, businesses and apartment garbage. With businesses this includes cardboard, paper and yard waste which would. For apartments and houses, glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastic are prohibited. With businesses and apartments, if garbage collectors find more than 10 percent of the container filled with recyclables, they will leave a tag. On the third tag they will then leave a $50 fine. However, with households there can be no fining. If they do find garbage though, they will leave a tag and ask you to sort out your garbage that they will then collect the next week.
California appears to be the leading recycling state in the US with a 2010 recycling rate of just under 50%. In 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB341, which requires that “75 percent of solid waste generated be source reduced, recycled, or composted by the year 2020.” to better understand the economic potential of increasing recycling in California to 75%, NRDC commissioned the Tellus Institute to create a report, From Waste to Jobs: What Achieving 75 Percent Recycling Means for California, which was released this week.
The NRDC report finds that more than 110,000 jobs could be created as a result of California’s goal to recycle 75% of its solid waste by 2020. Meeting the 75% recycling goal would create more than 34,000 jobs in materials collection, 26,000 jobs in materials processing, and 56,000 jobs in manufacturing using the recovered materials. And in addition to the 110,000 jobs directly created, there would be an additional 38,600 indirect jobs created in sectors providing equipment and services to recycling-related businesses as well as induced jobs from additional spending by the new employees.
Improved recycling of plastic is especially important, both in terms of jobs and of environmental benefits. 29,000 new jobs can be created from plastic recycling alone, and recycling this plastic can help reduce the amount of the material that ends up in rivers, beaches, and oceans.
Working toward achieving any recycling goal will benefit the environment, and it is also a great opportunity for a state to revitalize its economy by recapturing the value of recyclable materials and by creating green jobs. Throwing out useful materials like plastic, paper and metals is like throwing out money; by reconceptualizing waste as materials, and optimizing how materials are managed for the greatest utility, residents can grow any state’s green economy while helping preserve our natural environment.
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