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Recycling: A Component of Strong Community Development

Recycling Grows Green Logo

Click here to view a printable version of the Recycling: A Component of Strong Community Development (PDF) (6 pp, 62.5K, About PDF) fact sheet.

Strong community recycling programs can contribute to a healthy, united community. Some of the many benefits of recycling are the prevention of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and supporting local economies by creating jobs and tax revenue. Recycling programs can also help to improve water and air quality and are building blocks for sustainable growing communities. Take a look at how recycling can impact your community with tangible improvements to your quality of life.

More Links and Resources

Recycling: A Component of Strong Community Development (PDF) (6 pp, 62.5K, About PDF) fact sheet

Community Development and Recycling Links and Resources

Click below for links to climate change and economics resources:

Source Reduction and Recycling: A Role in Preventing Global Climate Change

The Economics of Recycling in the Southeast: Understanding the Whole Picture

Community and Recycling Topics

Healthy Neighborhoods

Sustainable Growing Communities

Recycling Brings a Community Together

Investing in Your Community

Fostering Healthy Neighborhoods

How does recycling promote a healthy community? As manufacturing activities and jobs continue to be outsourced, communities are struggling to add new, high-paying jobs to boost their local economies. To tackle this problem, some local governments are shifting their focus to developing creative economies in hopes that they will attract alternative, sustainable industries to the area.

One key indicator of a creative economy is recycling. A community’s commitment to a cleaner environment is often considered to reflect its commitment to a higher quality of living. Recycling also attracts companies that reprocess recyclables and the suppliers who reuse these materials in their products.  As EPA’s Recycling Economic Information Study (PDF) (158 pp, 1701K, About PDF) points out, recycling industries not only offer higher paying jobs than the national average, they also prevent communities from disposing of valuable commodities in landfills.

Smart Growth Strategy: Recycling at the Center

Cities like Atlanta, Georgia are turning to smart growth strategies to manage expected population growth. Smart growth strategies are based on principles of sustainability—higher density mixed-use developments, remediation and reuse of Brownfield sites, integration of transportation investments with appropriate land use, and green building. At the core of green building is sustainability and in turn, recycling. Green buildings require the use of products made of recycled content (e.g., insulation, carpet, pavers) and also make use of salvageable materials (e.g., doors, windows, lumber) from demolition. Green developments, such as Atlantic Station, the nation’s first LEED™ Silver-Core & Shell high-rise office building in the world, cater to a “creative class” of people with a live, work, and play environment all in one place. The community was designed to improve the area’s water resources and regional air quality and to serve as a model for environmental sustainability and smart growth. Storage and collection of recycling is a prerequisite for obtaining LEED certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Fact: The Curbside Value Partnership Exit EPA Disclaimer estimates that more than $1.2 billion worth of recyclables were disposed as waste in Region 4 states in 2006. Non-recycled fiber (e.g., paper, cardboard) contributed the most to the lost value with nearly one billion pounds landfilled or incinerated.

According to North Carolina’s Recycling Means Business (63 pp, 2671K, About PDF), recycling employs more people than the state’s bio-tech industry, as well as the agricultural livestock industry. In addition, recycling jobs as a percentage of the state’s total employment have increased 40% in 10 years.

Washington County, Kentucky: Taking a Regional Approach to Recycling

Farming is a way of life in Washington County and with rising fuel costs and concerns about climate change and its effects on their community, recycling has captured the attention of local officials. The county started recycling with just one trailer and one employee in 2002. Since then, the program has expanded with curbside service to its main city, Springfield. Washington County has also collaborated with neighboring counties to take a regional approach to collecting recyclables. Approaching recycling regionally has allowed six counties to participate in recycling, providing recycling opportunities to rural areas that otherwise would not receive service. Washington County received over $252,000 in grant money from the State of Kentucky to expand their recycling initiatives through the six-county region in 2007. The county program has grown from recycling approximately 325,000 pounds and making $2,464 in profit in 2004 to making more than $10,000 and recycling over 1.3 million pounds of materials in 2006. Using the grant money received in 2008 and partnerships with five counties, Washington County has collected over one million pounds of recycled materials in the first six months of 2008. Washington County was the first Certified Clean County in Kentucky and also the first county to receive grant funds for its regional approach to recycling. Recycling is adding economic value to the community and providing an opportunity for residents to tackle environmental concerns on a local level.

Source: Washington County, Kentucky

And what about air quality?  Recycling also plays a role in reducing GHG emissions, which are associated with chronic health issues such as asthma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both indoor and outdoor air pollution pose hazards to human health and are estimated to be responsible for nearly 5% of the global burden of disease. Nearly 2 million children younger than five years of age die every year from acute respiratory infections. Efforts can be made to reduce environmental pollutants that may contribute to chronic illnesses through recycling programs that reduce energy consumption. By recycling, waste that releases GHGs through anaerobic decomposition is reduced. Recycling also reduces the need for raw materials in manufacturing processes, which require larger amounts of energy for harvesting and thus have a larger adverse air quality impact. According to RE3.org Exit EPA Disclaimer, paper recycling reduces air pollution by up to 74% when compared to producing paper from raw materials.

Improved Water Quality a By-Product of Recycling

Recycling can reduce a range of pollutants from entering the rivers, streams, and other waters of our state by reducing discharges to the environment. Recycling a ton of paper saves as much as 7,000 gallons of water and eliminates the wastes that would typically be generated during manufacturing.

Mississippi State Task Force on Recycling, 2006

Finally, landfilling can be minimized by implementing recycling programs and dedicating time and resources to their development and success. The placement of proposed landfills often leads to strong opposition in the community. The attitude of “not in my backyard” typically prevails. Landfill placement can lead to diminished property values and the potential for releases to the environment. The need for landfills and the concerns that come with them subside with higher recycling participation rates.

FACT: The White House Task Force projected that 195 million cubic yards of materials were prevented from entering landfills in 2005 due to recycling, an amount equivalent to the space of 92 large landfills.

With efficient curbside recycling programs, residents can take an active part in beautifying their community.  The placement of recycling containers throughout a community makes recycling easy and gives residents another reason to take pride in the place they call home.

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Fostering Sustainable Growing Communities

Making waste reduction a priority provides new opportunities for sustainable community growth.

From Trash to Commodities: Developing advanced recycling programs creates pathways for collected commodities to be sold in the marketplace. Comprehensive and efficient recycling programs offer more opportunities for the community to benefit financially, while improving the aesthetic appeal of their neighborhoods. One way the recycling industry does this is through boosting tax revenues—revenues that can go back into community projects such as public parks, alternative transportation, and educational grants.

Fact: The Florida Recycling Economic Information Study, (68 pp, 1213K, About PDF) completed in 2000, revealed that Florida netted $62 million in state tax revenues as a direct effect of the recycling and reuse industry.  The study also stated that recycling and reuse in Florida employs five times the number of people employed in convenience stores and has a total payroll 10 times larger.

Myth: Recycling Just Becomes Trash

While it is true that contamination can render some materials unfit for recycling (such as food residue on paper products), recycling corporations work hard to find markets for materials that are recycled. With new technology to separate and salvage materials and emerging markets for these materials, recyclers often find it feasible to partner with their end users to identify opportunities for reuse. Some materials will eventually find their way to the landfill or incinerator simply because they should not have been recycled in the first place. Educating consumers about what can and cannot be recycled will help in reducing the amount of materials that eventually must be disposed as waste.

FACT: In 2007, the City of Kinston, North Carolina, was able to save $100,000 dollars in fuel and labor costs by implementing a new and improved recycling program. The city transitioned from 18-gallon containers to 95-gallon wheeled carts and implemented automated collection. Not only did the carts create added convenience for residents, the program coordinators saw a boost in participation as well.

Myth: Recycled Bottles Just Go into New Bottles

Recycled materials are reprocessed and turned into a variety of new products. Recycled plastics are used in the production of toothbrushes, plastic construction timber, and carpets, to name a few. Recycling allows for greater innovation when it comes to the manufacturing of new products.

For example, the Catawba County EcoComplex Exit EPA Disclaimer in North Carolina puts the concept of “bio-mimicry” industrial development into practice. The complex generates power from landfill methane and houses a pallet company with master plans to have an integrated office park where each industrial by-product is used by another company or the office park itself. Recycling can be more than simply reusing one material over and over for the same purpose. Recycling can also mean using waste products for fuel, such as scrap tire rubber or leftover wood chips. By-product synergy allows the EcoComplex to achieve cost savings by using waste products for energy and as components in new products. It also protects the community by preventing the release of unnecessary GHGs through transportation and development of materials from virgin resources. Efforts to develop recycling communities like the EcoComplex often require partnerships between local government and private industry. The result is a closed-loop facility that turns what would otherwise be waste into valuable feedstocks.

Dynamic Jobs: Strong recycling programs have the ability to create jobs. While trash disposal simply transfers waste to its grave, recycling gives new life to salvageable materials, thus creating opportunities for new jobs. The more times a recyclable material is used before disposal, the greater the number of jobs that can be created. Recycling jobs represent a wide range of salaries. These jobs also span several industries and involve numerous skill sets, such as marketing commodities, sorting materials, and handcrafting furniture.

Fact: According to The Economic Impact of the Recycling Industry in South Carolina Exit EPA Disclaimerpublished in 2006, on average, every 1,000 tons recycled from landfills represents 1.68 additional jobs in the state.  This number also represents a total economic impact of $236,000, or the generation of $79,800 in personal income.  Every additional 1,000 tons recycled generates $3,687 in additional tax revenues to the state.

Myth: Recycling is Small Change

Many people fail to recognize the growing impact recycling will have on the economic health of our region. It is a growing part of our economy by adding jobs and expanding tax revenues. A report from North Carolina entitled Made in North Carolina: Recycled-Content Products Help Fuel the State's EconomyExit EPA Disclaimer, notes that between 1994 and 2004, recycling jobs have increased from 8,700 to 14,000. In contrast, manufacturing jobs in the state have declined from 817,300 to 577,400 during the same ten-year period.

Supporting Sustainable Industries: Recycling industries have been around for decades, with new companies emerging yearly. The needs in the industry are diverse. Some corporations rely on recycled plastics to produce their carpet products, while others depend on donated computers for refurbishing. Some companies are using recycled plastic in the production of their fleece products. The bottom line is that recycling facilities are bound to be established where supplies are plenty. According to Markets for Aluminum (32 pp, 690K, About PDF), consumers tend to buy scrap aluminum in the region where their plants are located. For instance, a secondary smelter will generally limit its scrap purchases to a radius of 500 miles.

Fact: In 2007, Coca-Cola announced that it will be spending $60 million to open a 30-acre plastic recycling plant in Spartanburg, SC. The plant will be fully operational in 2009 and is expected to recycle about 100 million pounds of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic annually, which is equivalent to about 2 billion 20-ounce beverage bottles.

Myth: Recycling is Hard

As long as the community is able to provide adequate recycling opportunities and accessibility, recycling should not be difficult for the consumer. America’s Beverage Association’s Recycle It Now program Exit EPA Disclaimerbelieves that recycling success can be as simple as just reminding people to do it. As part of their campaign, they provide large plastic recycling containers in the form of a plastic soda bottle to encourage recycling, and to also make it easily accessible. Providing visuals in the community will help residents know what can be recycled.

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Recycling Brings a Community Together

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Harrison County, Mississippi, started out on the long road toward recovery. Committed to rebuilding a better and even stronger community, Harrison County identified recycling as a top priority for this severely damaged community’s rebirth. Immediately following the hurricane, EPA arrived to aid the county in setting up a recycling center for white goods and other materials that could be salvaged from the disaster. According to Cindy Simmons of Harrison County, the process took nearly six months to complete. Since the hurricane, Harrison County has taken further steps to improve the community by restoring curbside recycling and implementing a household hazardous waste drive each year. The Phone Book Recycling Campaign Exit EPA Disclaimerwas also created as a way to bring the community together. To encourage school participation, schools were rewarded with funds for each phone book donated. The county continues to rebuild and is looking for opportunities to further improve their electronic waste recycling program. They have proven that recycling is an important component of a healthy and united community.

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Support Recycling and Invest in Your Community

On a sunny day in May 2004, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to kick off a new education campaign called Take it to the Curb! Exit EPA Disclaimer At the event, the mayor encouraged Orlando residents to increase recycling by 10 percent.  To accomplish this, he urged residents without bins to contact the city to get one.  To help promote the new campaign, city officials created rolling billboards by covering their existing fleet of recycling trucks with new campaign-themed messages.  The mayor also participated in a “ride-along” following the press conference where he hung door-hangers and talked to area residents about their needs.  After the launch and subsequent city-wide communications campaign, bin requests increased 1,000% over the year prior, according to the Curbside Value Partnership.

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