A New Way to Think about Recycling

Recycling has become a integral part of most people’s lives. Most of us take pride in doing our part to collect cans, paper, plastics and other materials for reuse and keep them out of the local landfill. However if you ask the average person what recycling professionals actually do in their day to day work you may not get much of an answer. So what happens after the recycling bin is emptied, you ask? Let me explain.

Recycling is a Big Environmental Technology Business

Recycling is much more than collecting plastics, aluminum cans and paper. Recycling is a $77 Billion environmental technology industry where recyclable materials are reused, reclaimed or remanufactured into useful products or raw materials for the marketplace. Let me give you a more detailed idea of what happens behind the scenes. Through the use of innovative manufacturing methods, recyclable materials like yellow grease is turned to bio diesel fuel; plastic bottles are remanufactured into polyester thread for use in clothing and rugs; recycled paper waste ash is reprocessed into Eco-cement and Zinc and other metals are reclaimed from steel mill ash, appliances and old electronics. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), more 130 million metric tons of scrap materials were recycled in 2010 and produced over $29 billion in raw material exports. Depending on the economic conditions and the availability of materials, the recycling industry could have a very bright future but there is a problem.

Recycling is a People Business

The economic, environmental and financial benefits of recycling are so strong that corporations, governments, and waste management companies are actively “mining“ their waste streams to find viable recycling revenues. The only limiting factor in their quest for these revenues is finding and hiring the qualified people who are ready to work. ISRI reports that the recycling industry drectly and indirectly employs 450,000 workers in the US (see the economic report). Yet if the current trend toward sustainability continues to grow, the industry could easily be overwhelmed. To help interested job seekers, I want to list some the critical knowledge areas that hiring managers in this sector are seeking:

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