Menu

Jump Starting a U.S.-based Recycling Industry: Letter to President-elect Obama

On December 7, 2008, GBB President Harvey Gershman wrote to President-elect Obama about the untapped opportunities for significant job creation in the solid waste/recycling field and the role that economic incentives might play in building employment in this industry. We encourage you to also submit your comments to www.change.gov and/or to Harvey Gershman at hgershman@gbbinc.com

** Sent December 7, 2008 to www.change.gov **

Dear President-elect Obama:

I trust you are aware of the untapped opportunities for significant job creation in the solid waste/recycling field and the role that economic incentives might play in building employment in this industry. I am writing with my perspective.

Since Earth Day 1970, when we awakened to better environmental policies and practices, national recycling rates have risen from a few percentage points to 33.4 percent, as recently reported by the U.S. EPA. Americans have embraced recycling, both at home and at work, diverting more than a third of the 254 million tons of municipal solid waste generated annually.

Where do these materials go? Previously, as recycling feedstock became more reliable in both quality and quantity, recycled feedstock replaced raw materials in many domestic manufacturing processes. Then, at the turn of the last century, the situation began to change. China, India and other countries began to purchase recycled materials in quantities and at pricing that were greeted with enthusiasm by the public and private sectors serving the recycling needs in our nation. At the same time, U.S. industrial capacity to consume domestic recyclables was greatly reduced as they found it impossible to compete economically with countries that built infrastructure operating both with cheap labor and under environmental standards that are significantly lower than those in the U.S.

Today, the reliable flows of recycled materials continue, but with the downturn in the worldwide economy, prices for recyclables have dropped, and demand for these materials has plummeted. At the same time, we also have many empty factories across the country. There are cities, both large and small, with good people that want to work hard, but can’t because factories are closed.

I believe the solution is to create tax, pricing support incentives, and import tariffs ―significant ones―to re-direct these reliable flows of recycled materials from U.S.-based recycling programs to re-built factories in the U.S. that will manufacture them into products we can buy ourselves or even export to other countries. Let’s create economic incentives to jump-start a U.S.-based recycling industry and discourage the continuation of policies that allow our waste stream to be mined and exported just like the dollars we export when we buy foreign oil. As you well know, there are tremendous energy and environmental (greenhouse gas reduction) benefits to doing this, along with the significant job creation.

Imagine a day when the recyclables we set out every day come back to us as tomorrow’s newspaper, the garden hose at the hardware store, or the clothing we buy ….instead of products made in other countries.

There are a lot of Americans eager to have factory jobs making products. Creating a recycling manufacturing infrastructure that uses recycled materials as the feedstock is an exciting and smart opportunity that will contribute to sustainable industries, jobs and a new tax base in America.

Sincerely,

Harvey W. Gershman, President
Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc.
Solid Waste Management Consultants
www.gbbinc.com