California’s Recycling Goal is a Jobs Creator

Achieving 75 percent recycling in California would produce more than 110,000 jobs

SAN FRANCISCO (March 11, 2014) – More than 110,000 jobs could be created as a result of California’s goal to achieve 75 percent solid waste recycling by 2020, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The analysis finds that the state will need to recycle an additional 23 million tons of waste in 2020 to meet its goal, presenting a significant opportunity for the state to revitalize its economy with green jobs. 

“California is already a leader when it comes to recycling, yet there is still so much opportunity to ensure this economic resource isn’t going to waste,” said Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist for NRDC. “By recovering materials such as plastic, paper and metals, we can capture their value and grow a new labor-intensive industry.”

The NRDC report, From Waste to Jobs: What Achieving 75 Percent Recycling Means for California (, outlines the potential to increase recycling rates for each material in California’s waste stream and the resulting job growth that would accompany that growth. NRDC commissioned Tellus Institute, a research and policy group, to create this analysis based on its earlier report, “More Jobs, Less Pollution,” which analyzed the economic and environmental benefits of increasing the national recycling rate to 75 percent.

Key Findings include:

  • Overall, reaching the goal of a 75 percent recycling rate by 2020 in California would create at least 110,000 new recycling jobs, and could create an additional 38,600 jobs in related industries, such as equipment suppliers.
  • Of those 110,000 jobs, more than 34,000 would be in materials collection, 26,000 in materials processing, and 50,000 in manufacturing using the recovered materials.
  • Plastic and aluminum recycling have the greatest potential to create jobs, with 29,000 jobs resulting from a 75 percent plastic recycling rate. Landfilling and incineration generate the fewest jobs per ton of waste.
  • In order to keep these jobs in California, the state will need to provide economic incentives and build new facilities to ramp up recycling capacity.

Californians currently send nearly half of their solid waste to a landfill or incinerator, missing the opportunity to recover valuable material resources. In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 341, which mandates that “75 percent of solid waste generated be source reduced, recycled, or composted by the year 2020.” NRDC said that achieving this goal will require the construction of new recycling facilities to process the increase in recycled materials.

Improved recycling of plastic is especially important, both in terms of jobs and the environmental benefits. Twenty-nine thousand new jobs would be created from plastic recycling alone, and recycling this plastic can help reduce the amount of the material that ends up in rivers, beaches, and oceans. “Plastic pollution places a huge burden on our ocean and coastal communities. It kills marine life and harms local beach economies,” said Leila Monroe, an NRDC senior attorney.

For more information:

NRDC California Recycling Web Page:


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