How Can We Create 1.5 Million Jobs And Reduce Pollution? Recycling.

Authors: Ananda Lee Tan, Global Alliance Incinerator Alternatives

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A new report called More Jobs, Less Pollution was released this week, showing that a national 75% recycling rate would create nearly 1.5 million new jobs while reducing an amount of climate pollution equal to shutting down 72 coal-fired power plants, or taking 50 million cars off the road. This reportdescribes the benefits of building a resource recovery economy that creates community jobs with family-supporting wages.

Residents and allies march to Detroit's incinerator in favor of recycling over incineration

These are jobs we desperately need, and the money to invest in them could easily be redirected from subsidies that are currently being wasted on polluting incinerators and landfills. Simply put, we need to reinvest in recycling, composting, reuse, and strategies that move us on the path toward zero waste.

We need to demand that public money supports the future we want to see. Not only does recycling offer a cleaner, safer option for waste than landfilling or incineration, it also takes a lot less energy to manufacture products from recycled material than from newly extracted, material. Reaching a nationwide 75% recycling rate would create healthier communities too. Cities like San Francisco, Seattle and Oakland have shown this is achievable, and the state of California has set a statewide recycling goal of 75% by 2020.

Burning waste kills jobs, burdens public health and ruins local economies. Cities like Harrisburg, PA and Detroit, MI are going broke because incinerators are risky investments. Not only are they the most expensive way to make energy – incinerators are the most expensive way to handle waste. A new GAIA report - Burning Public Money for Dirty Energy- exposes the tax breaks and public money handed this industry. These subsidies are intended for clean, renewable energy, not a technology that creates more climate and mercury pollution per unit of energy than coal-fired power plants.

And now Congress is poised to make a bad situation worse by gutting the Clean Air Act for some incinerators and cement kilns (HR 2250, HR 2681). Earth Justice estimates the resulting pollution would cause up to 9,000 deaths every year. Congress is also considering a bill (HR 66) to create new tax exemptions for “waste-to-energy” incinerators.

Recycling and composting are necessary steps to Zero Waste and Climate Justice. We simply need to stop subsidizing polluters, and get busy turning waste into work!

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