Minnesota's recycling programs do an excellent job of keeping waste out of the solid waste disposal system. However, recycling is more than an alternative to waste disposal. It also conserves and reuses resources, creating new businesses in the process.
Minnesota's recycling industry adds significant value to our state's economy. In order to document this economic activity, in 1996, the Office of Environmental Assistance (now part of the MPCA) examined the role recycling has in Minnesota's economy. This first study of economic activity was limited to value-added recycling manufacturers, those businesses that re-manufacture recyclables into secondary materials such as paper, plastic, metals and glass.
In 2002, the Recycling Market Development program reexamined the impact recycling has on Minnesota's economy. This study was conducted in order to measure current economic activity and to identify a more complete range of benefits from Minnesota's recycling industries. This latest study looks at value-added manufacturing again, but also measures the economic activity related to collecting, processing, and marketing recyclables in Minnesota.
In comparing the 2000 to the 1996 data, Minnesota's valued-added recycling manufacturing industry continues to be a stable, growing and vibrant sector of the economy. Economic activity related to re-manufacture of secondary materials such as paper, plastic, metals, and glass remained steady between 1996 and 2000. Growth in the plastic lumber manufacturing area was noted but did not significantly increase overall economic activity.
Minnesota's information was part of a national effort, the U.S. Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study, a partnership between the state of Minnesota (and 16 others), the U.S. EPA and the National Recycling Coalition to document the economic activity associated with recycling on a national level. Together, the 2002 study for Minnesota and the national study provided an overview of the economic activity generated by recycling in Minnesota and across the nation.
Minnesota’s value-added recycling manufacturers
More than two-thirds of the economic activity related to recycling in Minnesota is generated by re-manufacturing secondary materials into new products-value-added recycling manufacturing.
Minnesota's value-added manufacturers generated an estimated $93 million in state tax revenue and employ an estimated 8700 people in direct jobs. These jobs in turn support another estimated 20,000 people downstream in indirect and induced jobs. All together these jobs, which pay an estimated $1.19 billion in wages, represent a major force in the Minnesota economy.
Estimated gross economic activity for Minnesota's value-added recycling manufacturing industry is $3.48 billion.
The largest segment of the value-added recycling industry is made up of manufacturers who use recycled paper, post-consumer paper and old corrugated cardboard (OCC) as a raw material source. Rock-Tenn (St. Paul) and Liberty Paper (Becker) are major companies using this feedstock. Much of their raw material-recycled paper and OCC-comes from Minnesota recyclers.
Minnesota's Value-added Recycling Manufacturers (for year 2000)
Minnesota’s recycling collection infrastructure
Recycling begins with collection and processing programs, which are owned and operated by small and large companies and by local units of government. This is the face of recycling seen by the public and waste generators on the streets and in the alleys. Waste Management, BFI and Superior are major companies involved in the collection infrastructure.
Minnesota's recycling collection infrastructure generated an estimated $35 million in state tax revenue on direct jobs. They employ an estimated 6100 people in direct jobs at the companies. (These direct jobs are included as part of the total number of indirect job supporting the value-added recycling manufacturing industry.) These jobs in turn support another estimated 18,500 people downstream in indirect and induced jobs. All together these jobs pay an estimated $977 million in wages. It should be noted that some of these wages are part of $1.19 billion in wages paid on the downstream value-added recycling manufacturing jobs.
Estimated gross economic activity for Minnesota's recycling collection infrastructure is $2.91 billion.
Minnesota's Collection Infrastructure (for year 2000)
National REI study highlights
In a similar study covering the whole nation, the REI study found that value-added manufacturers generated an estimated $5.4 billion in federal tax revenue and employ nearly 760,000 people in direct manufacturing jobs in the United States. These jobs in turn support another estimated 1,938,000 people in indirect and induced jobs. Total wages from these 2.7 million jobs are more than $100 billion.
Estimated gross economic activity throughout the United States for the value-added recycling manufacturing industry is $417 billion.
As a driver of economy activity, recycling compares favorably with other industries. According to the REI study, the average wage for the industry is $36,000, approximately $3,000 above the national average. The study also concludes that recycling stimulates technology development.
The recycling industry is growing both in Minnesota and nationally. The distribution of activity among secondary material types was similar between the Minnesota and nationwide figures. However, Minnesota has a particularly strong and active paper recovery business.
Visit the U.S. Recycling Economic Information Project web site to learn more about the importance of recycling and reuse to U.S. economy.
The recycling efforts of Minnesota residents and businesses are improving our environment every day. The results are clear-cleaner air and water, avoided material consumption, avoided energy consumption, more forested land and open space, and reduced greenhouse gases.
An "environmental benefits calculator" was developed through a partnership with Recycling Association of Minnesota and the National Recycling Coalition to quantify the impact of recycling. By inputting Minnesota's recycling data for 2000:
- Recycling in Minnesota conserves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The 1,341,248 tons of paper, glass, metals and plastic and other material recycled in 2000 saved nearly 22 trillion BTUs of energy-enough energy to power nearly 217,483 homes (equivalent to all of Ramsey County) for one year. In addition, recycling also resulted in reduction of net greenhouse gas emissions of 930,959 tons.
- Recycling in Minnesota conserves natural resources. By using recycled materials instead of trees, metal ores, minerals, oil and other raw materials harvested from the Earth, recycling-based manufacturing conserves the world's scarce natural resources. For example, material consumption of natural resources for making steel was reduced by 486,585 tons as a result of recycling efforts.
- Recycling in Minnesota reduces air and water pollution. Last year, recycling reduced overall emissions excluding carbon dioxide and methane by 35,589 tons. In addition, waterborne wastes were reduced by 5,895 tons.
For further information, please contact Wayne Gjerde: < firstname.lastname@example.org > or 651-296-6300.
Voluntary market-based approaches to recycling, pollution prevention, and resource conservation are being used successfully in the United States and other countries to both protect the environment and promote economic growth. [This article appeared in the February 2006 issue of EM Magazine, a publication of the Air & Waste Management Association (www.awma.org).]
Minnesota’s Value-Added Recycling Manufacturing Industries: An Economic and Environmental Profile (June 1997) is the first study describing the economic contributions and general environmental benefits of Minnesota's recycling manufacturing companies. This study of economic activity in 1996 was limited to the state's value-added recycling manufacturers, those businesses that re-manufacture recyclables into secondary materials such as paper, plastic, metals, and glass.
The Minnesota Recycled Products Directory is the on-line directory of Minnesota manufacturers of recycled-content products. Searchable by product type, manufacturer, distributor and feedstock.
The Minnesota Recycling Markets Directory lists businesses that collect, buy or sell recyclable materials from Minnesota markets. This is primarily a reference for businesses and manufacturers, not consumers.
The U.S. Recycling Economic Information Project web site focuses on the importance of recycling and reuse to the national economy in the United States.
The annual Reports on SCORE Programs provide a snapshot of recycling and waste management in Minnesota, including statewide recycling rates, data on waste generation and disposal, and an overview of finance and administration of programs around the state.
The Market Development Program helps start-up and expanding businesses in Minnesota develop uses for recycled materials by offering technical, business, financial, and marketing assistance. Learn more about the resources they have to offer.