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Increased recycling can rally economy

Carey Hamilton
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Hamilton

Indiana has an opportunity to create jobs right now by investing in recycling.

Tens of thousands of Hoosiers work in the manufacturing of aluminum, glass, plastic, paper and steel. But the companies making these commodities struggle to find enough recycled material to make new products, which are cheaper to produce with recycled materials.

(It’s cheaper because using recycled materials takes less energy – sometimes as much as 95 percent less energy – than making new products from scratch.)

We also know that new collection, transportation and processing jobs are created when recyclables are harvested from the waste stream.

Meanwhile, most of us routinely toss bottles, cans and office paper – some of the materials sought by manufacturers – into the trash and, ultimately, landfills. One recent aluminum industry estimate calculated that about $30 million worth of aluminum goes to Indiana’s landfills each year.

What kind of sense does that make?

We need to make recycling make sense from the perspectives of both manufacturers and residents. One way is to reinstitute Indiana’s recycling grant program, designed by the legislature to improve residential and business recycling options by investing in Indiana’s relatively fledgling recycling infrastructure and public education efforts.

A majority of these grants (generated by a landfill-use fee paid by waste haulers) have been used by the Daniels administration for other purposes since the beginning of the state’s fiscal crisis in January 2009.

The state is now flush with funds, so the time is right once again to spend recycling program funds for their designated purpose – to invest in a system that is guaranteed to create new jobs while supporting Indiana’s manufacturers and reducing waste. Indiana lags most of the nation in such investments. Now is the time to change that.

Many Hoosiers need employment, and we need them in the collection, processing and transport of recyclables and in the energy-saving, landfill-diverting manufacturing of new products.

Let’s get to work!

Carey Hamilton is executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, Inc. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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