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New Mexico recycling industry could add 5,000 jobs

Many people associate recycling with something that is good for the environment, but not many realize the number of jobs created and what a significant economic driver the recycling industry plays in each state and country. In fact, nationally the recycling industry represents more jobs than the car manufacturing industry. A general rule of thumb is that for every landfill job there could be 10 recycling jobs for that same amount of material handled. The recycling industry is a $236 billion industry compared to the $45 billion waste industry.

A new report released by the New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC) details the estimated number of jobs in the recycling industry and predicts how many jobs could be gained through increased recycling activities. It is estimated that close to 5,000 new direct, indirect and induced jobs will be created in New Mexico when the state recycling rate reaches 34 percent.

With recent investments and commitments made in both rural and urban areas, New Mexico is poised to meet this goal. Recycling activity is measured by the New Mexico Environment Department: Solid Waste Bureau, which calculates the state’s 2011 recycling rate at 21 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. That rate has had a 16 percent average annual increase over the previous 5 years. If this trend continues, reaching the national average of 34 percent could be attained by 2015.

Jobs in recycling are created in four different sectors: collection, processing, manufacturing and reuse. First, the material must be collected. Then the material is processed at a facility for sale to the end-markets. The material then becomes part of the manufacturing sector, becoming a new product made from recycled-content material. The fourth sector is the reuse industry. The majority of jobs in the collection and reuse sectors remain in state. Jobs in the processing sector occur both in-state and out-of-state, and currently manufacturing jobs primarily take place out-of-state and even out-of-country.

The report was conducted as part of NMRC’s multi-tiered Rural Recycling Development project funded by a Department of Energy grant. The report sheds light on the value of recycling activity as an economic driver and provides case studies of how communities can reach higher recycling rates. It also describes small-scale economic development niche business models suitable for New Mexico.