A Greener Planet: The Economic Benefits of Recycling

While most people understand the environmental benefits offered by recycling, many don’t appreciate the economic success recycling has offered businesses across the U.S.

By transforming waste into valuable raw material, recycling creates needed jobs, enables manufacturing industries to become more competitive in the global market, and makes an indispensable impact on America’s economy.

Recycling Works

Commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the 2001 U.S. Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study partnered with a variety of state and local governments to determine what economic benefits the recycling industry offered the country’s economy.

According to the results of REI, the reuse and recycling industry in the U.S. includes over 56,000 businesses nationwide that together employ 1.1 million people and generate an annual revenue over $236 billion, while paying out over $37 billion in salaries.

The REI study also discovered that indirectly the recycling industry supports an additional 1.4 million jobs, which results in an annual payroll of roughly $52 billion and nearly $173 billion in revenue. Spending by individuals employed in the recycling industry helps to create an additional 1.5 million jobs with an annual payroll of $41 billion and annual revenue of over $146 billion. Additionally, the recycling industry also contributes approximately $12.9 billion in state, local, and federal taxes.

The Recycling Industry

While at Seraphim Plastics we recycle a variety of scrap plastic materials, the recycling industry as a whole amounts to a very diverse network of public and private sector institutions. In addition to plastic scrap, the recycling industry includes such organizations as recycled materials wholesalers, recyclable material recovery facilities, collection centers, pavement producers, glass container manufacturers, iron and steel foundries, steel mills, and rubber product manufacturers.

As you can see, the recycling industry includes far more businesses than ones focused solely on just recycling collections, processing, and reuse. However, the four largest industries in the recycling industry include iron and steel foundries, steel mills, paper mills, and plastic converters like us.

Additional Benefits of Recycling

The recycling industry helps businesses, community organizations, and local governments save money by avoiding disposal costs associated with incinerators and landfills. A growing number of local communities have shown that reuse and recycling programs can remain competitive financially with the more commonly used and accepted disposal programs in place today. The economic competitiveness of recycling programs becomes very evident when the industry is compared to the full cost of solid waste disposal and for the impact waste disposal has on the environment.

Recycling also helps to stimulate the development of green sector jobs and technology. Recycling allows for and encourages the development of products that are friendly to the environment. The readily available supply of low-cost materials provided by community collection programs has prompted many businesses to create cutting-edge technology and products. Recycled tires, for example, are used in a variety of ways, including in rubberized asphalt for road paving. South Carolina, one of the nation’s leaders in recycling related economic growth, features one of top technological developers in this field in the Asphalt Rubber Technology Service. Companies like ARTS are one of the reasons why South Carolina has generated over $11 billion in revenue from recycling related businesses during the last five years.