It Pays to Recycle

by Monica Thomas
(May 2013)

The environmental benefits of recycling are well known in today’s 21st century society. While there are still some arguments as to whether recycling may be completely necessary, we have learned unequivocally it does not hurt the environment. New research has come show that the old mantra of “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” and overall waste management can in fact help to save money and in some cases, create money.

This photo illustrates how the more and more common practice of companies that specialize in the recycling of construction debris works

Innovations have been put in place in recent decades to both make things easier for citizens to become more environmentally savvy and to encourage them to do things on their own that have a positive impact on earth. Waste reduction has been for some time a way to save money by using less or re-using an item. Now studies suggest the economic and financial benefits from re-using and recycling. In some cases, the creation of new sectors in recycling has resulted in the development of new companies or expansion of others.

Recycling is one of the best known ways to keep items out of landfills and from burning in incinerators, which can ultimately damage our soil, drinking water, and air. In Illinois there is new focus on encouraging citizens to do their part in insuring the health of our environment while helping to quicken the economic recovery efforts. There is a connection between the environment responsibility that comes along with recycling and the jobs that have been created as a result of the environmental responsibility the residents of Illinois are showing. For Illinoisans, the benefits of recycling can be enormous and the leader of the state, Governor Quinn, is attempting to have this take place as quickly as possible.

One idea, focused around helping Illinois gain jobs and helping to clean up the environment, was for Illinois residents to recycle products that were produced outside of the state as it would create jobs inside the state. Because so many manufactured products lives do not begin in Illinois, the end of the product’s life can be the beginning of jobs. The idea is one that would be quite beneficial to all of the state as it will help make and to keep our environment healthy, while stimulating the economy by putting more citizens back to work and lowering the overall unemployment rate in the state.

While it is acknowledged that recycling can be much more expensive than the disposal of items to landfills, the benefits can far outweigh the costs. When recycling is done consistently, the numbers improve. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about one million manufacturing jobs are created from recycling and re-manufacturing, and can bring in “more than $100 billion in revenue” (2012).

For some very specific companies, recycling has proven to be less expensive than land-filling and has helped these companies to make money. The Champagne & Marx Excavating Inc. has quite a bit of experience in construction, but has recently begun the business of recycling. The leader of the business venture stated that, “At the time, much of the concrete from our jobsites was either being taken to landfills, or being stockpiled back here at our facility” (Marx, 2006).  Because concrete from their construction sites would most often end up in landfills, the price of hauling it to landfills had become more expensive.This entirely different form of recycling has the potential to continue generating money for citizens of this state as construction projects are starting to pick up more steam in the state after the economic downturn in recent years.

Because Americans live in a time that the production of items with specialized internal components such as computers, LCD televisions and cellular phones, it opens up a new category of products that can be recycled. The production of these items has led to the formulation of companies that specialize in the reproduction. This in turn leads to the employment of many people with different skill sets with the ability to earn billions of dollars in their recycling jobs.  “By turning waste into valuable raw materials, recycling creates jobs, builds more competitive manufacturing industries and adds significantly to the U.S. economy” (DHEC’s Office of Solid Waste and Recycling, 2008). Those who make money in the recycling field will have the ability to then spend hundreds of billions of dollars. Because more money will be spent, employers will need to hire more workers to accommodate the higher level of purchases. “1.4 million Jobs are ‘indirectly’ supported by the recycling and reuse industry, resulting in an annual payroll of about $52 billion and about $173 billion in annual receipts” (DHEC’s Office of Solid Waste and Recycling, 2008).

With the direct and indirect economic impact of recycling, it only makes sense that recycling will become a much more important part of society. The Illinois government is working to help support the state with such programs so that people from all walks of life can stay active in this new trend. While the initial start up of a recycling company may be expensive, the overall benefits — both environmental and economic — will end up outweighing this expense.