If you look at it from afar, Minnesota’s recycling industry is doing great. We have a recycling industry that employs over 37,000 workers and boasts more than 200 companies utilizing recycled materials to create new products.
But when you compare our numbers to those of our neighbors, you quickly will recognize that there is a great deal of untapped potential in Minnesota’s recycling industry. Just look to our south. Iowa recycles a full 50 percent more cans and bottles than we do here in Minnesota.
That means good jobs are bypassing our state because we are not willing or able to capture all of the raw recycled materials that manufacturers seek. We’ve talked with the leaders of several businesses who work with repurposed recycled materials. One glass manufacturer said that they would love to expand their business in Minnesota, but without improvements to our recycling rate, they are not confident that they will have the raw materials they need to keep their business afloat.
While many think we are a great recycling state, Minnesota’s can and bottle recycling rate has been stuck in the 35 percent range for a long time. The MPCA reports that in 2010, Minnesotans threw away $285 million worth of recyclables, which in addition to costing us economic opportunity also cost us nearly $200 million to dispose of these otherwise reusable items. With every trashcan that contains recyclable materials, we are literally throwing away good paying jobs.
Perhaps it’s time for Minnesotans to start looking at our trash differently, because it is not just recyclable waste we are throwing away. It’s jobs.
Please consider contacting your legislators and telling them that Minnesota needs to Stop Throwing Jobs Away!