How Does Recycling Help the Economy?

how does recycling help the economy

Small Steps. BIG Economic Impact.

When it’s cold and snowy or hot and muggy and you head out to the alley with your week’s worth of bottles, cans, paper and cardboard, you may ask yourself, “Should I really take those few extra steps to get to the recycling dumpster?” Or, “Does it really make that much difference if I put my bottles and cans in the trash instead of the recycling bin?” The answers are yes and yes, your small steps toward recycling make a big impact on our local economy!

How Does Recycling Help the Economy in St. Louis?

By comparing what happens to items placed in the trash with items placed in recycling, we can see the economic benefits that recycling has over landfilling. Both trash and recyclables have to be collected by trucks, hauled to a transfer station and then sent to a landfill (trash) or a Materials Recovery Facility (recyclables). The collection and hauling process is the same for both, but what happens next is what makes their economic impacts so different.

Recycling vs. Landfill

To send our trash to a landfill, the City of St. Louis spends $33.98 per ton. But, if it goes to a recycling facility, we spend only $15.60 per ton, a savings of $18.38 per ton. This is because recyclables have value as a commodity, which offsets the cost of processing them into marketable products. The money that is saved by recycling can then be used to cover the rising cost of providing Refuse Division services and prevent the need to increase trash collection fees.

Additionally, when we recycle, those items still have value. Manufacturers can recycle them into new products and sell their products to consumers, maintaining or creating jobs in both manufacturing and retail sectors. Plus, those businesses contribute to the local economy through fees such as business licenses, building permits, real estate taxes, income taxes, etc. St. Louis is home to many recycling businesses all contributing to the local economy. Conversely, once trash is buried in a landfill, it’s there forever and any value it may have had is lost. And, since there are no landfills in St. Louis city, we do not benefit from fees associated with landfill operation.

Recycling Creates More Jobs

But how does recycling help the economy in terms of jobs? Even if we did have a landfill, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, recycling still wins because it sustains more jobs than landfills. On a per-ton basis, sorting and processing recyclables alone sustain 10 times more jobs than landfilling. A study conducted by the University of Missouri found there are approximately 16,000 people employed in 1,500 recycling businesses in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. They include businesses involved with recycling collection and processing, salvage, manufacturing, retail, education and composting. The more we recycle, the more these businesses can grow and continue to contribute to our local economy.

So remember, even if it’s really hot or really cold, when you take those few extra steps to the recycling bin, you are supporting local businesses and making a great contribution to the St. Louis economy.

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