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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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Economic Benefits of Recycling

While the environmental benefits of recycling are well known, the economic benefits of recycling are also significant despite the fact that they are often overlooked. Simply stated, recycling has encouraged the growth of an industry and created jobs.

National Scale

  • The recycling industry continues to grow at a rate greater than that of the economy as a whole. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, total employment in the recycling industry from 1967 to 2000 grew by 8.3% annually while total United States employment during the same period grew by only 2.1% annually.
  • The recycling industry also outperformed several major industrial sectors in regard to gross annual sales as its sales rose by 12.7% annually during this period. Furthermore, the number of recycling industries in the United States increased from 8,000 in 1967 to 56,000 in 2000. These facilities employ 1.1 million people across the country.

Local Scale

  • New Jersey’s well-developed recycling industry, which includes manufacturers of various recycled products, specialized processing facilities and transporters, is an important segment of the state’s economy.
  • New Jersey’s recycling infrastructure includes 17 intermediate processing facilities for Class A recyclable materials (glass bottles, metal cans, plastic containers, paper grades), over 100 NJDEP-approved recycling centers for Class B recyclable materials (concrete rubble, asphalt debris, wood scrap, scrap tires), and dozens of industrial facilities including steel mills, foundries and paper mills.
  • A recent study conducted by the Northeast Recycling Council and United States Environmental Protection Agency found that almost 27,000 people in New Jersey are employed in recycling and reuse establishments and that total receipts from these establishments are valued at over $5.9 billion annually.
  • The NJDEP estimates that nearly 9,000 additional jobs would be created in New Jersey should the 50% municipal solid waste recycling goal be met.


    • Recycling saves money for manufacturers by reducing energy costs. Data shows that New Jersey’s recycling efforts annually save approximately 128 trillion BTUs of energy, equal to nearly 17.2% of all energy used by industry in the state, with a value of $570 million.
    • The sale of recycled products is an increasingly important component of the retail sector and commerce, in general. There are over 1,000 different types of recycled products on the market and due to changes in technology and increased demand, today’s recycled products meet the highest quality standards. Recycled products are also more readily available than ever before and are affordable. By purchasing recycled products, consumers are helping to create long-term stable markets for the recyclable materials that are collected from New Jersey homes, businesses and institutions.
    • The economic value of clean air, water and land is significant, but difficult to quantify. Since recycling plays an important role in protecting these natural resources it must be attributed an economic value in this context, as well.

Contact: Steven Rinaldi, NJDEP, Bureau of Recycling and Planning - or 609-984-3438.


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Last Updated: January 13, 2014