More Jobs, Less Waste

This report from Friends of the Earth Europe shows how countries that boost their recycling rates can add as many as 500,000 new jobs while cutting their waste to landfill significantly.

From the introduction to the report:

As the UK and the rest of Europe attempt to recover from the global financial crisis and the consequent recession, we are entering a period in which Governments are urgently seeking solutions to curtail the size of the public sector, whilst encouraging innovation and enterprise by a hesitant private sector. At the same time, despite the failure of Copenhagen, the imperative of climate change and the need to advance to a low carbon economy remains undimmed and urgent.


Our view is that these challenges can be met together. We have an opportunity to create valuable and sustainable 'green jobs' and this is even more important in the present economic situation. At a time when overall government spending on the environment is set to fall, the recycling and reuse sector can make a major contribution to the green economy.

In this report, we have identified the contribution of the recycling sector and its supply chain over the last decade and tracked the growth of employment in this sector as recycling rates and tonnages have increased. We have examined previous studies from the UK, EU and United States to establish trends and identify inconsistencies. There are limitations both on the quality and quantity of data on employment and waste generation both in the UK and EU. However, we have used the best available data and a transparent and defensible methodology to estimate the potential employment creation contribution the resource management industry could deliver if much higher targets for recycling and reuse were implemented. This has taken account of potential incremental direct employment, indirect, and induced employment but has not quantified displaced jobs in sectors less in demand in the new low carbon economy, such as landfill.

On a European level, if a target of 70 percent for recycling of key materials was met, conservative estimates suggest that across the EU27 up to 322,000 direct jobs could be created in recycling an additional 115 million tonnes of glass, paper, plastic, ferrous and non ferrous metals, wood, textiles and biowaste. These jobs would have knock on effects in down and upstream sectors and the wider economy and could create 160,900 new indirect jobs and 80,400 induced jobs. The total potential is therefore for more than 563,000 net new jobs.

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