NOT JUST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
In 1999, Massachusetts
businesses and residents generated over 13 million tons of garbage, close to one third
more than we did ten years ago. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
recently adopted a goal to reduce the amount of garbage we annually dispose by 70% by the
year 2010. This would happen through recycling, reuse, and by not making the garbage in
the first place. The state is promoting this goal because keeping waste out of landfills
and incinerators is good for public health and the environment. And, of course, none of us
wants a landfill in our back yard. By reducing the amount of waste we throw away, we
reduce the need for landfills and incinerators and dump fewer pollutants into our air and
water. Recycling helps the environment in other ways: it reduces the need to mine raw
materials to make new products that are often used for only a few minutes or months before
getting trashed. And, using recovered materials, such as glass and paper and metals, to
make new products requires less energy and natural resources and creates less water and
air pollution, including greenhouse gases, than using their virgin counterparts.
But there is another
important reason why we should reuse and recycle our wastes: recycling is good for the
economy. It creates jobs, brings revenues into our communities, and tax revenues to the
state. A recently released study by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) shows that the
recycling industry in the Northeast (defined in this study as the ten states from Delaware
north) is a $44 billion dollar industry, with over 14,000 recycling and re-use businesses
employing over 206,000 people and paying wages in excess of $6.8 billion. These
establishments collect, process, and/or turn the materials into new products.
Massachusetts accounts for over 10% of the recycling and reuse establishments in the study
area, with 1400 such businesses. These 1400 Massachusetts businesses employ close to
20,000 people and have an annual payroll of over $550 million, and annual sales of over
$3.5 billion. The indirect and induced effects associated with these activities include
support of over 20,000 additional jobs, and $142 million in revenues brought in to the
Commonwealths coffers. When added to recyclings direct economic impacts, the
amount of taxes, fees and other revenues brought into the state annually by recycling is
over $200 million.
The NERC study goes on
to show that manufacturers who make products with recycled content account for
approximately 4% of overall manufacturing employment in the northeast. A separate survey
conducted by the Chelsea Center showed that these manufacturers employ nearly 12,000
people and use close to 4 million tons of recovered glass, metals, plastics, carpet, food,
wood, asphalt shingles, electronics, and other materials annually to make new products.
These are materials that would otherwise be thrown away. Manufacturing jobs are
particularly important to the economy for a number of reasons. According to the
Manufacturing Assistance Center in Worcester, manufacturing represents more than half of
the states base economy- that part of the economy that generates real growth through
exports out of state- and its expanding. Manufacturing is the principal
source of productivity growth in our economy, far outstripping services, and thus is the
driver of higher standards of living. Manufacturing jobs also have higher multipliers -
meaning there are more jobs created to support the manufacturing jobs- than other sectors.
Manufacturing also offers good jobs at good wages, particularly for those without college
degrees, and manufacturing wage growth in the Commonwealth has outpaced inflation for the
past two years.
Our communities can be
looked at as mines, producing raw materials that can be turned into new products. With its
current waste reduction goal, Massachusetts will need to find a home for close to 9
million tons of recyclable materials in 2010. We will lose an important opportunity if we
dont take advantage of this wealth of resources. Recycling collectors, processors,
and manufacturers of recycled products already are a strong presence in the state.
Communities throughout Massachusetts are more actively finding ways to link local wastes
with local economic development needs. By supporting more of these kinds of businesses and
activities and looking at our waste as a resource, we can move towards a sustainable
materials economy, bringing jobs and revenues to our communities while reducing the burden
on our landfills and preserving our environment.
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Chelsea Center for
Recycling and Economic Development