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Study says recycling could create thousands of jobs in Indiana

By: Jim Johnson

December 5, 2013

Nearly 1.4 million tons of plastic gets tossed into landfills or burned in incinerators each year in Indiana, accounting for about a sixth of all waste handled in the state.

But diverting a fraction of those plastics, and other recyclables and compostable materials, could provide thousands of new jobs, a new study suggests.

The Indiana Recycling Coalition is out with a new examination of the issue that suggests that 10,000 jobs could be had if 25 percent of plastics, paper, metals, glass and other recyclable material now headed for landfills and incinerators is instead reclaimed.

The study, conducted for the coalition by the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University, claims that increasing the diversion rate for both recyclables and compostable materials from in-state waste by 10 percent would add about 3,900 jobs. When the diversion number jumps to 25 percent, the jobs number increases to nearly 10,000.

Including out-of-state waste sent to Indiana landfills and incinerators, the potential jobs numbers are even higher: 10 percent diversion would add about 5,500 jobs; 25 percent diversion would add nearly 14,000, the study claims.

Those conducting the study indicate that 0.76 jobs are created for each 1,000 tons of waste collected and landfilled or incinerated. But that number increases to 13.53 per 1,000 tons of recycled plastics collected, processed and made into new products.

“Collecting and sorting recyclable material requires three to four times more employees than landfilling/incinerating the same material,” according to the study. “Manufacturers that use recycled feedstock are the primary drivers of recycling-related jobs and job creation varies considerably according to the recycled material used and the sector.”

By comparison, recycled paper accounts for 7.39 new jobs per 1,000 tons and glass recycling accounts for 11.08 jobs per 1,000 tons. Compostable materials, meanwhile, only account for 2.48 jobs per 1,000 tons, the study states.

“It’s a simple matter of economics,” said Carey Hamilton, executive director of the non-profit Indiana Recycling Coalition, in a statement. “Indiana manufacturers want more recyclable materials because they save significantly on energy costs when they use recycled materials rather than raw materials. The resources are available right here in Indiana. And recycling creates more jobs.”

The study also indicates that 66 percent of today’s discards in the state could be used as raw materials and 17 percent could be turned into compost.

Indiana buries or burns about 6 million tons of in-state waste annually and about 8.6 million tons in total when adding in out-of-state waste.

The study is available at http://www.indianarecycling.org/about-irc/advocacy/2013-recycling-job-study/.