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The Recycling Economy

NERC took the national lead in evaluating the relationship between jobs, the economy, and the recycling industry. Ed Boisson and Michael Alexander were lead staff on these projects, and technical consulting was provided by Roy F. Weston and R. W. Beck.

  • Fostering Economic Development Through Recycling (1993–1996)

The goal of this two-phase project was to increase investment in the region's recycling industry by promoting the industry to the economic development and financial communities.

In Phase 1, NERC researched the economic benefits of the Northeast recycling industry. This resulted in a report entitled Value Added to Recyclable Material in the Northeast.

In Phase 2, NERC conducted three recycling economic development workshops, based on the model developed in Phase 1. The goal of the workshops was to educate state economic developers and financiers on their state's recycling industry and to explore opportunities for state economic development programs to be applied to recycling businesses. Project funding: EPA, U.S. Economic Development Administration.

  • Recycling Economic Information Project (1996–1998)

This project developed a recommended methodology for obtaining economic information on the nation’s recycling and reuse industries. The project’s Final Report was published in 1998. Project funding: EPA.

The methodology described above was then applied to study the 10 Northeast states — with state-specific information developed, with state funding, for Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. The Recycling Economic Information Study, published in 2000, was the first study in the country to document the vital role that recycling and reuse play in the local and regional economies. The study found that in the NERC region, there were:

  • 13,000 recycling and reuse establishments,
  • 206,000 people employed in the recycling and reuse industries,
  • $6.8 billion in annual payroll, and
  • $44 billion in annual revenues.

In 2001, the National Recycling Coalition used the same methodology to develop a national profile of the recycling and reuse industries. Project funding: EPA, and individual states. 

NERC is now updating the REI study for the states of Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, with the services of DSM Environmental.