The Economics of Recycling


Did you know that Americans haul more than 80 million tons of trash to recycling units every year? This is enough to fill a huge baseball stadium from top to bottom every single day! Recycling is an environmentally-friendly practice that saves substantial energy and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions. It creates job opportunities, conserves natural resources, saves energy, and dramatically reduces landfill waste by using balers and compactors.  There are a number of economic benefits of recycling for every industry right from electronics and automobiles to apparel and scrap.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 industries that are making the most of recycling to gain a competitive edge:

      • 1. Electronics

        Given the increasing reliance on electronic gadgets and devices in day-to-day life, the electronics industry is rapidly growing. As newer makes and models are launched, the old ones are rendered useless. This has generated an endless stream of obsolete electronics which need to be disposed of in a responsible manner using recycling equipment. For all these reasons, recycling of electronics has become a booming industry. In the U.S. alone, e-waste recycling generates at least $20 million every year.

      • 2. Hospitality

        Hotels are also gaining substantial economic benefits by implementing eco-friendly initiatives that need little to no investment. By choosing to go green, hotels are not only cutting down on energy consumption but also gaining a competitive edge and customer loyalty. Green practices have helped hotels reduce their carbon footprint and operational expenses. Simple measures like using fluorescent light bulbs, reusing linens, installing low-flow sanitary ware, installing green roofs and solar panels have yielded significant environmental benefits in terms of energy consumption, employee retention and pollution prevention.

      • 3. Food Packaging

        The food packaging industry is prudently minimizing the impact of packaging waste on the environment by following the EPA guidelines. Right from choosing the packaging material and composting to combustion and waste management, the food packaging industry has revamped every operation to make it eco-friendly. Recycling ensures safe recovery of waste material and the waste that cannot be recycled undergoes controlled burning in a designated facility.

      • 4. Paper Mills

        Paper mills are saving 4,000 kilowatts of energy, 7000 gallons of water and 380 gallons of oil on every one ton of paper they recycle. These energy resources are enough to power an average home in the U.S. for six months. Recycling paper not only saves trees from being cut down but also reduces the landfill waste.

      • 5. Chemicals

        Recycling of materials is now a common practice in the chemical industries. Basic chemicals, plastics and polymers are recycled for conserving raw materials and making processes more efficient. Recycling is now gaining global significance as it creates sustainability, improves business credibility, recaptures the value of waste chemicals and ensures safe disposal, thus preventing environmental contamination.

      • 6. Apparels

        The apparel industry is no exception when it comes to recycling. Even the fashion industry is governed by legislative frameworks and as a result, designers are now turning towards recycled materials for creating sustainable garments. The fashion sector recycling reduces landfill waste and preserves natural resources. It also boosts brand performance and improves reputation. For all these reasons, leading fashion brands are now working with recycling service providers.

      • 7. Steel

        Steel being 100% recyclable, the steel industry is now recovering every ton of scrap to meet the increasing demand for steel. Steel scrap is recycled because it has a high economic value and it is the most eco-friendly form of recycling. It eliminates the burden of primary material production, reduces the environmental impact of associated reprocessing and conserves the energy used in waste handling.

      • 8. Dairy Farms

        As all dairy farms are required to comply with the federal regulations governing the storage of manure, they are now recycling manure by following the nutrient management plans. This is helping dairy farmers protect local streams and rivers while conserving the soil. The manure is being used for fertilizing crops and protecting stream banks. Dairy farmers have also found innovative ways to recycle water and other natural resources to ensure that their farms remain economically viable and reduce greenhouse emissions.

      • 9. Automobiles

        Approximately 14-15 million vehicles are dismantled every year for recovering metal and other recyclable materials. While recycling the metals recovered from these automobiles saves tremendous energy that is used in making metal, it also prevents the hazardous materials from polluting the environment. For every single car that is recycled, results in the saving of 1400 pounds of coal, 1.25 tons of iron ore, roughly 13-14 tons of steel, 120 pounds of limestone and 39,000 gallons of water.

      • 10. Pharmaceuticals

        The advanced practices being followed by pharmaceutical companies in packaging and preserving product integrity have now paved the way for recycling expensive tablets and capsules. Previously sold but unused medication is now being used for resale and donation. The benefits of this initiative have improved the well-being of those who belong to low-income groups and cannot afford medication that is vital to their health.

Industries of every size and scope are minimizing their waste by employing compactors and balers or by partnering with recycling service providers. Installing recycling equipment in-house is another great option for enterprises that involve regular handling of waste.

20 Biz Biggies that are Going Green with their Business Processes:

  • 1. General Electric

    This may come to you as a surprise but the company has sold more than 12 million sustainable solutions including solar panels.

  • 2. McDonalds

    This popular fast-food chain now works closely with PETA on reforming its existing operation to be more eco-friendly and humane to animals

  • 3. Starbucks

    This globally renowned cafe uses recycled coffee cup sleeves since 2006. This green approach has saved roughly 78,000 trees every single year.

  • 4. Bank of America

    Even with a 24% growth in client base, the company successfully reduced the use of paper by 32% and proved that eco-friendly practices can coexist with progress. Today the bank runs an internal recycling program under which it saves roughly 200,000 trees every year.

  • 5. Dupont

    The company has successfully reduced the emission of carcinogens and green house gases by 63% under the guidance of an ex-Greenpeace head.

  • 6. Innovest

    Ranking companies on the basis of waste disposal and pollution, Innovest has been highly successful in reforming the business operations of publicly traded companies.

  • 7. Dell

    Dell’s recycling program ensures that no computer goes waste. The company allows every customer to return all dell products for free and disposes them safely.

  • 8. Coca-Cola

    Completely focused on sustainability, Coca-Cola is actively involved in community recycling and climate protection.

  • 9. Honda

    Going above and beyond eco-friendly obligations, the company has not only achieved a 5% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions but is also taking steps to build an infrastructure that uses hydrogen instead of gasoline.

  • 10. Tesco

    This green grocery chain that offers every shopper discounts on bringing reusable bags. Every single store of this grocery brand is wind-powered and uses biodiesel trucks for delivery.

  • 11. Goldman Sachs

    Goldman Sachs has silenced its critics by investing $1.5 million in solar and wind power. This green ideology has really paid off in spades and motivated other enterprises to go green with their practices.

  • 12. TJX Companies

    Implementing eco-conscious practices as early as 1988, the company has been recycling all the corrugated cardboards received from vendors. Apart from recycling, all of their distribution units use T5 fluorescent bulbs to conserve energy.

  • 13. HP

    This computing brand is committed to creating greener pastures and has taken serious steps to ensure that all HP products are recycled for use in industrial food chains.

  • 14. S.C. Johnson

    The company has effectively reduced 1.8 million pounds of organic compounds and eliminated roughly 4 million pounds of harmful chemicals from its product line. The company has also revamped manufacturing practices by replacing the use of coal with natural gas.

  • 15. Brooks

    Brooks has rolled out a biodegradable line of shoes that decompose in a span of 20 years. This eco-friendly initiative is expected to reduce the landfill waste by 30 million in the same span of 20 years.

  • 16. Target

    With the goal of greenifying their business operations, Target has launched a line of eco-clothing in collaboration with designer Rogan Gregory. This line makes use of organic fabrics and is now available at Barney’s, New York.

  • 17. Toyota

    The world’s very first hybrid vehicle, “Prius” is the most fuel-efficient car available in the U.S. The vehicle has also been ranked third for emitting the least carbon in the environment.

  • 18. Tesla Motors

    By designing an electronically powered car, Tesla has proven that eco-friendly auto does not need to compromise on power and speed. This green car efficiently goes from zero to sixty in less than 4 seconds at the cost of 2 cents/mile.

  • 19. Wal-Mart

    All set to embrace the Green ideology, Wal-Mart is now making waves with its long-term plan to power every single store with renewable energy resources. The brand has also implemented a waste-eliminating philosophy wherein all the operations have been made eco-friendly using recycling equipment.

  • 20. Home Depot

    From an ex-offender to an eco-conscious company, Home Depot has come a long way within a few months. The brand implemented a “no old-growth” sales policy under which tree harvesting is no longer practiced.