About Zero Waste > Jobs & Economic Impact

Jobs & Economic Impact


Zero Waste creates jobs in your community — whether you’re large or small, urban or rural. And Zero Waste strengthens your economy by keeping dollars and materials circulating through your local area.

Here’s why everyone from small towns all the way up to the United Nations is embracing Zero Waste programs as a strategy to drive economic development.

Zero Waste creates 10x more jobs than trash

Zero Waste creates an average of ten times more jobs than landfills and incinerators (per ton of material handled).

  • Recycling creates an average of ten times more jobs than trash.
  • Composting creates at least twice as many jobs as landfills.
  • Reuse creates as many as 30 times more jobs than landfills.

The EPA’s 2016 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report shows that the recycling and reuse of materials creates jobs, while also generating tax revenues. In 2007, recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for:

  • 757,000 jobs
  • $36.6 billion in wages; and
  • $6.7 billion in tax revenues

This equates to 1.57 jobs for every 1,000 tons of materials recycled.



The U.S. Could Create 1.1 million new jobs by recycling 75% of our discards

Recycling, reuse, and manufacturing jobs are critical to meeting our local, state, and national goals to create more green jobs. Recycling creates strong job growth and opportunities for low-skilled and mid-level workers. Jobs in the recycling industry:

Recycling provides needed jobs in sectors with high employment rates and can replace jobs lost in manufacturing.

Want more facts on how recycling can create jobs in the U.S.? The Tellus Institute’s report More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S. details how transforming the “waste” sector into a “materials management sector” will support the economy and the environment.

Zero Waste Strengthens the Local Economy

Local Zero Waste industries support jobs in other sectors. For every job created within the waste diversion industry, one additional job is created elsewhere in the labor market. This creates a stronger local economy.

In addition to job growth, Zero Waste gives value back to the community by keeping materials – and dollars – out of the landfill. Every ton of trash that gets buried in your local landfill contains products like paper, plastic, and metal that could have been sold for recycling. That’s money that could have supported community and local businesses. The U.S. buries $11.4 billion every year in potential revenue from materials that were trashed instead of being sold for recycling.


Three Ways Zero Waste Creates Jobs

1. Collecting, processing and preparing materials. Your discarded materials are picked up and then brought to processing facilities where they are sorted and prepared to sell to markets.

2. Making new products from recycled materials (remanufacturing). Your recyclables then head to paper mills, metal smelters and plastic manufacturing facilities that use recycled materials to make new products. Compost facilities turn your discarded yard and food scraps into valuable soil amendments or energy (through the anaerobic digestion process).

3. Reuse and repair businesses that sell reclaimed products. These include antique stores, thrift stores, tailors, auto salvage yards, computer refurbishers, used book stores, and more.



More Benefits of Zero Waste

Composting and recycling are some of the fastest, most cost-effective strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Discover how Zero Waste mitigates climate change.

learn more about Climate Change

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