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There's Money in Them There (Recycling) Hills
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July 19, 2013

There's Money in Them There (Recycling) Hills

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

Forget the old data industry doctrine, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Today, in the recycling industry, it’s “Garbage in, green stuff out”—and that means both environmentally acceptable materials and wealth.

The Washington, DC-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), a trade association that represents more than 1,700 companies, has just released an economic impact study demonstrating that the industry accounts for nearly 500,000 U.S. jobs and generates more than $87 billion annually in economic activity. 

The study was performed by the New York City-based independent consulting firm of John Dunham and Associates to determine the size and scope of the scrap industry in the United States and to document its contribution to the economy in terms of employment, tax generation, and overall economic benefit.

“As expected, the economic impact study shows the scrap recycling industry serves as an economic driver for our country, a job creator, and major exporter,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “At a time when the national job market is fragile, the recycling industry is creating high-quality, good-paying opportunities for Americans. This, in turn, feeds money back into the economy through spending and revenue generated from taxes.”

According to the report, the recycling industry is responsible for 462,780 direct and indirect U.S. jobs. This includes 137,980 direct jobs that pay an average of $69,475 in wages and benefits. Direct jobs comprise those in facilities that involve processing scrap materials into new, usable commodities. Indirect jobs are created by the vendors that supply machinery, equipment and services to processors, and by the wages and taxes paid by the scrap recyclers to their workers and suppliers. Both figures mark an increase from a similar study conducted two years ago.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • The industry generates about $4 billion in state and local revenues annually, and another $6.3 billion in federal taxes are paid each year by the industry and its employees;
  • The scrap recycling industry provides for 55 percent of the national’s total economic activity, making it similar in size to the country’s forestry and fishing industries combined, nearly all the professional sports teams in the United States, and the toy industry;
  • Exports account for 39 percent of the industry’s economic activity, creating roughly 185,000 jobs; and
  • Export activity generates $33.9 billion in economic benefits, including $1.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes.

The scrap recycling industry has been at the forefront of job creation, adding more than 15,000 jobs to America’s economy since the beginning of 2010.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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