Zero Waste Creates Jobs
Zero Waste doesn’t just help the environment, it helps our economy too. Recycling, composting and reuse create green jobs, and lots of them:
> A U.S. recycling rate of 75% by 2030 would create 1.1 million new jobs.
> Recycling and reuse create at least 9 times more jobs than landfills and incinerators, and as many as 30 times more jobs.
Around the world, an estimated 15-20 million wastepickers earn a living from scavenging discards. Formalizing this sector offers huge opportunities to improve sanitary conditions, increase materials recovery and alleviate poverty in the world’s developing cities.
How recycling creates jobs
There are numerous local, national and international industries that depend on recyclable materials. When you choose to recycle your discards, jobs are created in:
1. Collecting, processing and preparing materials. Your discarded materials are picked up and then brought to processing facilities where they are sorted and prepared to sell to markets.
2. Making new products from recycled materials (manufacturing). Your recyclables then head to manufacturing facilities that use recycled feedstocks, such as paper mills, metal smelters and plastic manufacturing facilities. Compost facilities turn your discarded yard and food scraps into valuable soil amendment.
3. Reuse and remanufacturing. Some discards are sorted and fixed up to be used again through computer refurbishers, thrift stores and auto salvage yards.
Recycling creates far more jobs than disposal
Recycling, reuse and remanufacturing create far more jobs than burying or burning our resources. In fact, 86% of the total U.S. jobs from managing our discards come from recycling activities, even though we only recycle about one-third of our discards.
By improving our national recycling rate to 75% by 2030, the U.S. could create 1.1 million new jobs. Learn more by reading "More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S."
Recycling can also drive job creation in the European Union. The E.U. could add another 560,000 new jobs by meeting its goal of recycling 70% of discards. E.U. research shows recycling creates more jobs at higher income levels than landfills and incinerators. Jobs from recycling grew 7% per year in the E.U. between 2000 and 2007.
Around the world
The UN estimates sustainable development initiatives could create 60 million new jobs, with recycling being one of the eight key sectors of growth.
Currently an estimated 15-20 million wastepickers earn a living from scavenging discards. These workers endure dangerous conditions and are outcast by society, yet they provide essential services to their community and our environment by reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from waste.
Formalizing this sector offers huge opportunities to improve sanitary conditions, increase materials recovery and alleviate poverty in the world’s developing cities. Many initiatives are underway to form cooperatives and formal agreements among wastepickers and local governments. Learn more about wastepickers and support their fight for equal rights.