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Report highlights recycling’s huge contribution

Europe – A new report from the European Environment Agency has highlighted the financial contribution of the recycling industry to the continent’s economy through provision of raw materials, job creation, and encouraging business opportunities and innovation.

The report considers the recycling industry in the context of building a ‘green economy’, which represents a major European policy objective. Entitled ‘Earnings, jobs and innovation: the role of recycling in a green economy’, the report shows that recycling has numerous environmental benefits including: diverting waste from landfill and thereby avoiding polluting emissions; meeting the material demands of economic production; and preventing the environmental impacts associated with extracting and refining virgin materials.

Revenues from recycling are already substantial and are growing rapidly. Between 2004 and 2008, turnover from seven main categories of recyclables almost doubled to more than Euro 60 billion in the EU. Owing to a reduced demand for raw materials and a decline in commodity prices during the economic downturn, recycling turnover declined sharply at the end of 2008 and in the first half of 2009 but has subsequently mounted a recovery.

The growth of recycling is being driven by increasing demand for recyclables, with booming economies in Asia and elsewhere helping to push up the price of materials. Another driver has been EU waste directives, which have contributed by creating obligations to recycle or recover increasing percentages of ‘waste’, and by discouraging landfilling. As a consequence, the volume of recyclables sorted and placed on the market has increased 15% between 2004 and 2009.

Overall employment related to the recycling of materials in Europe soared 45% between 2000 and 2007. More jobs at higher income levels are created by recycling when compared to landfilling or waste incineration, it has been concluded.

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