California’s plan to create green jobs – increase recycling

California's goal to achieve a 75 percent recycling rate would create thousands of green jobs, photo courtesy of Recology

California’s goal to achieve a 75 percent recycling rate would create thousands of green jobs, photo courtesy of Recology

California has earned its reputation for leading the way in green innovation and legislation. In 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 341, which  required the mandatory commercial recycling in California beginning July 1, 2012. This new law modified the California Integrated Waste Management Act, establishing a policy goal that “75 percent of solid waste generated be source reduced, recycled, or composted by the year 2020.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) commissioned Tellus Institute to assess the job creation potential of meeting the 75 percent recycling goal by 2020. The report outlined how achieving this recycling rate would create at least 110,000 new recycling jobs and many more jobs in related industries. It identified that plastic and aluminum  recycling had the highest potential to create new jobs, while landfilling and incineration generated the fewest jobs per ton of waste.

RecyclingRecycling 75 percent of plastic (equaling an additional 2.12 million tons) would create 29,000 jobs — more than any other material. The report noted that new recycling facilities in California are needed to process the increase in recycled materials.

Currently only half of California’s waste is reduced, recycled or composted. The rest winds up in landfills or is incinerated, and the amount of total waste in the state is steadily increasing. In 2010, California’s waste stream was 72.8 million tons. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) estimates that by 2020 the state will produce 80 million tons of waste annually.

According to CalRecycle, in 2012, almost 20 million tons of recycled materials were exported by sea from California’s ports, though it’s unclear exactly how much of that waste originated in California. Much of the higher-level processing of bulk or baled materials, such as paper, plastic, and metals, has been taking place in China and South Asia.

Achieving this 75 percent recycling goal requires recycling an additional 23 million tons of discarded material, which has the potential to create at least 110,000 additional recycling jobs. Thirty-one percent of these jobs are estimated to be in materials collection, 24 percent in materials processing and 45 percent in manufacturing using recovered materials. These figures don’t include estimates for 38,600 additional indirect jobs that would be created in sectors that will provide equipment and services to recycling-related businesses or induced jobs from additional spending by the new employees

Photo courtesy of Recology

Photo courtesy of Recology

The development of new processing and manufacturing facilities offers California real economic benefits.

Robert Reed, public relations manager at Recology, said “By increasing recycling in San Francisco, we reduced landfill disposal, provided recycled materials for manufacturing, and created more than 100 new jobs – permanent, local jobs – in 10 years!”

Multiply that by numerous recycling operations around the Golden State and the figures become remarkable. But along with economic growth, this law also offers direct environmental benefits to California’s cities, streams, forests, and aquatic ecosystems. It would be an incredible win all around – thousands of new green jobs, dramatically reduced waste to our landfills and increased recycling. This could go a long way to having California operate in the black again. That’s definitely something to look forward to!

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