Thursday, December 22, 2011

Got Jobs? Bottle Bill States Do

By Matt Prindiville, Associate Director

Just in time for the holidays comes a hopeful message about recycling and job creation from our friends at the Container Recycling Institute.  Last week they released an exhaustive study on the job impacts of container-deposit-refund systems, more commonly known as bottle bills.  For folks that live in states with bottle bills (like my home state of Maine), it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that these recycling initiatives create jobs.  However, what may be surprising is just how much local economic activity they actually create, and the serious opportunities that exist to create jobs through the expansion of deposit-refund recycling laws.

Their chief findings were that:

·        “Recycling creates many more jobs than disposal,” and bottle bills create the most jobs of all.  While several studies have also confirmed this as a generally well-understood principle, CRI adds new comprehensive data and the added dimension of comparing container-deposit systems with traditional municipal-run recycling and solid waste programs.

·        “Deposits create more jobs than curbside recycling relative to beverage containers.” CRI estimates that collecting bottles and cans through container-deposit systems yields 11 to 38 times as many jobs as collecting these same containers in curbside recycling programs. 

·        “Material throughput is the primary driver for recycling jobs.”  This is a fancy way of saying, “the more you collect for recycling, the more jobs you create.”  Because states with bottle bills collect three times more beverage containers than non-bottle bill states, CRI documents that they commensurately reap the benefits of the added jobs associated with collecting more material for recycling.

·        “The secondary driver of container-recycling jobs is the amount of workers required to collect, sort and transport the containers.”  With regards to job creation, bottle bills succeed here again due to the decentralized, entrepreneurial nature of container-deposit systems versus municipal recycling.

·        “Jobs gained in recycling far outweigh any jobs lost in extraction of virgin materials, landfilling or domestic manufacturing.”  CRI’s analysis effectively makes the case that increased jobs from recycling more materials significantly offsets – by an exponentially-wide margin – any potential job losses in landfilling, and/or extraction and use of virgin materials.

The CRI report complements the recent report by the Tellus Institute, which estimates that 1.5 million new jobs can be created by increasing the US recycling rate from 33% to 75%.  If you’re a policy maker struggling to come up with job-creation policies, this is welcome news.  When you consider that states with container deposit laws already achieve between 70 and 90% recycling rates for beverage containers today, increasing and expanding bottle bills seems to be a no-brainer. 

For skeptics that think any new jobs created would be low-wage sorting jobs at materials recovery facilities or bottle depots, both the CRI and Tellus reports demonstrate that increasing recycling directly translates into reviving America’s manufacturing sector.  According to the Tellus report, increasing the US recycling rate to 75% through container-deposit laws and other EPR initiatives could lead to an increase of 550,000 new American manufacturing jobs, an almost 200% increase.

Lawmakers now have compelling evidence that recycling isn’t just saving trees and energy.  It can also be about growing good jobs at home and creating entrepreneurial opportunities, all while protecting the environment at the same time.  Now, that truly is good news for the holidays!

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