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The municipal waste collection, recycling, and disposal industry in Pennsylvania contributes more than $4.2 billion a year to the state’s economy

and supports more than 26,000 jobs, according to a new research report prepared by the Philadelphia consulting firm Econsult Solutions, Inc., for the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA).

PWIA is the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Waste & Recycling Association and represents private-sector recyclers, haulers, and landfill operators. The report’s conclusions are based on accepted economic methodology, using official state and national data and information collected in a survey of Pennsylvania landfill operators, haulers, and recyclers.

PWIA president Mark Pedersen said the municipal waste industry collects, hauls, and disposes of 8.6 million tons of Pennsylvania municipal solid waste annually. “Along with that, we have also evolved into the ‘front end’ of recycling in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Our members collect, haul, separate, and process recyclables that become the feedstock for re-use and re-manufacture into new products. Recycling has become the fastest-growing component of our industry.”

The amount of materials recycled in Pennsylvania grew from 4.8 million tons in 2006 to 5.85 million tons in 2011, an increase of 20 percent, according to the report. About 30 percent of Pennsylvania’s recycled commodities are exported, which brings new money into the state economy.

Pedersen said private-sector companies in the industry have helped make recycling more attractive and effective by investing heavily in single-stream processing technology. In just the period of 2010 to 2012, the report shows, the industry has invested $400 million in capital improvements. The report found that single-stream recycling increased by almost 150 percent between 2006 and 2011 and now accounts for 43 percent of all materials recycled in Pennsylvania.

Single-stream generates higher participation in recycling because it doesn’t require consumers to separate materials such as glass, paper, and aluminum. Separation is done at a processing facility, often by machines with sophisticated sorting devices. This leads to significant increases in recycling rates, even within communities that already provide curbside collection of recyclables.

According to the report, about half of the industry’s $4.2 billion statewide annual economic contribution is in the form of direct annual operating expenditures and employment within the municipal waste industry – roughly $2.3 billion. The industry directly provides jobs to about 12,000 people at an average wage of $55,000 per year.
The other half of the economic contribution occurs in the form of indirect and induced impacts – ripple economic activity and employment “across a multitude of industries” that do business with and provide services to the municipal waste industry.

The report noted that Pennsylvania has more than 2,200 operations involved in the collection and processing of recyclables, about 500 manufacturers that use recycled materials, and another thousand enterprises involved in reuse and remanufacturing.

“This kind of ‘downstream’ activity is an important part of the contribution the industry is making to the economy,” Robert Bylone, president of the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center, said. “I’m glad to see the documentation in this report about the growing emphasis on recycling in relation to disposal that, in part, is occurring in response to the expansion of private markets. We continue to develop the efforts of the RMC and its partners producing results that greatly benefit the economy of
Pennsylvania.”

The report also said the municipal waste industry annually generates about $250 million in various taxes and fees to state and local governments, including about $80 million a year in state disposal, recycling, and environmental fees and about $60 million a year in payments to municipalities that host disposal facilities.

The full study is available on the PWIA website.

Published in the June 2014 Edition of American Recycler News