Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:23:12 -0500



by Brenda Platt and Neil Seldman [slightly edited]
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Draft, April 10th, 1996

During the last past 20 years, the combined efforts of citizens, government
officials, and business people have helped form the basis for an
environmentally sound era of economic growth. Prime example of that
effort is recycling and reuse. The general public has embraced recycling
for two
reasons. First, it saves energy and other resources, and second, it saves
materials by taking discarded resources from the waste stream and turning
them into valuable products.

Economic Benefits of Recycling But that's not all recycling provides.
Recycling can help revitalize existing industries and attract new
industries to urban and rural communities, preserving
existing jobs and creating new jobs. Put simply, recycling
is an economic development tool as well as an environmental tool. Reuse,
recycling, and waste reduction offer one of the most direct development
opportunities for communities. Discarded materials are a local resource
that can contribute to local revenue, job creation, business expansion, and
the local economic base.

Just sorting and processing recyclables sustains 5 to 10 times more jobs
than landfilling or incineration. However, it is making new products from
the old that offers the largest economic pay-off. New recycling-based
manufacturers employ even more people and at higher wages. Recycling-based
paper mills and plastic product manufacturers, for instance, employ 60
times more workers than do landfills. Manufacturing with locally collected
discards also adds value by producing finished goods-a drastic change from
the current paradigm in which our communities export raw materials and
import finished products. While value is added to discarded materials as a
result of cleaning, sorting, and baling, significantly more value is added
as a result of end-use manufacturing. For example, old newspapers may sell
for $20 per ton, but new newsprint sells for $600 per ton. Each step a
community takes locally means more jobs, more business expenditures on
supplies and services, and more money circulating in the local economy
through spending and tax payments.

Recycling-based manufacturing reduces dependence on distant markets for
recyclables and can provide greater market stability. Local jobs are
created, local manufacturers have access to less expensive raw materials,
and reduced landfill space saves residents and local governments dollars
that can now be spent elsewhere in the local economy. Local ownership
ensures that business assets remain in the region, and spin-off purchasing
enhances the stability of the local retail business environment and
contributes to the local tax base. In addition, using locally collected
discarded materials for reuse or to manufacture new products can contribute
to the local economy and improve regional efficiency and self-reliance by
producing goods that local business would otherwise purchase from
out-of-state sources. Moreover, recycling-based manufacturing can be done
on a much smaller scale than its virgin materials counterparts. For
example, steel mills based on scrap can be as small as 10% the size of
virgin-iron-ore-based mills and still compete effectively. This means that
manufacturing cannot only find its raw materials locally, it can also sell
locally and regionally. We can begin to miniaturize the economy.

Economic Benefits of Reuse Product reuse offers communities similar
economic benefits. Each year
Americans spend billions of dollars on diapers, new tires, and new plastic,
glass, and metal soft drink containers. Some of this money remains in
communities where the products are purchased, but most flees the
community to corporate headquarters. Coke and Pepsi dominate the
soft drink market. Two companies-Proctor and Gamble and Kimberly
Clark-together produce 87% of the diapers sold. And four tire
manufacturing companies own 77% of the new tire manufacturing industry. On
the other hand, reusable alternatives to these products -- refillable bottle
washing, cloth diaper services, tire retreading -- create wealth and jobs
for local communities.

Companies offering reusable products tend to be small
and locally owned and operated, providing local jobs and increased capital
retention to communities around the country. Small businesses are one of
the most important facets of any stable economy. Locally owned firms tend
to be more stable. They purchase more of their goods and services from the
local area, and they tend to be more civic-minded. There are 1,700 tire
retreading operations in North America. About 95% of these are owned and
operated by small businesses. Reusable diaper services employ 10,000 to
12,500 people. Each business employs 5 to 50 workers. A complete switch
to diaper services would generate 72,000 jobs nationwide in this service
industry alone. Refillable bottling operations are also often small-scale.
Stewart's in Saratoga Springs, New York, sells its own brand of soft
drink, orange juice, and milk, all in refillable containers. The company
employs 170 people full-time in its bottle plant and dairy.

Policies to Maximize Recycling-based Economic Development The key is
"closing the loop" locally. Reuse and recycling loops are closed by
policies that enhance the recovery of materials locally; that foster the
growth of local remanufacturing, reuse, and composting businesses; and that
encourage the purchase of finished products.

Encourage reuse:
* Substitute reusable products for disposable ones.
* Encourage commodity reuse through repair (e.g., appliance repair), and use
of products such as cloth diapers and refillable containers.

Maximize the amount of recyclable and compostable material recovered:
* Charge by volume or weight for waste collection.
* Where trash is collected at curbside, implement weekly, year-round
curbside collection of a wide range of recyclable and compostable materials,
including food scraps.
* Provide households with recycling containers and backyard composters, and
educate citizens to recycle and compost.
* Make participation mandatory.
* Require garbage haulers, businesses, and institutions to recycle and
* Establish a network of recycling drop-off sites.
* Provide adequate processing capacity for residential, commercial,
institutional, and industrial materials.
* Adopt tipping fee surcharges on waste disposal to fund recycling and
discourage wasting.
* Avoid waste incineration (because it promotes a throw-away society and
competes with recycling for materials and funds).

Foster the growth of local remanufacturing, reuse, and composting
* Mandate minimum recycled-content standards for certain products such as
newsprint, glass bottles, insulation, trash bags, and phone books.
* Educate local manufacturers on the advantages of using recycled materials.
* Offer financing incentives to recycling-based enterprises, particularly
those that are community based.
* Work with industrial park businesses, developers, and operators to
include community-based organizations as partners in joint ventures.
* Actively encourage recycling industries to locate in your community,
especially those that represent high-value end uses and "closed loop"
recycling (such as making old newspapers into new newsprint).
* Enlist economic development agencies in recycling planning.

Encourage the purchase of recycled products:
* Require recycled materials to be used in road construction projects.
* Buy recycled-content products.

Prevent waste:
* Mount a public education campaign on waste prevention.
[how does this 'create jobs'? --ED.]