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Earnings, jobs and innovation: the role of recycling in a green economy

EEA Report No 8/2011

The EU has introduced a variety of policies to increase recycling in the last 15 years. Recycling benefits the environment by diverting waste away from landfill, thereby avoiding pollutant emissions. It also helps meet the material demands of economic production, preventing the environmental impacts associated with extracting and refining virgin materials. At the same time, promoting recycling offers other important economic and social benefits. This short report explains the role of recycling in the green economy and examines the evidence of its contribution in Europe, focusing primarily on the economic benefits that recycling offers.

Download report: Earnings, jobs and innovation: the role of recycling in a green economy

The key findings are as follows:

  • Revenues from recycling are substantial and growing fast.
  • Booming Asian economies and EU directives have boosted European recycling.
  • Recycling creates more jobs at higher income levels than landfilling or incinerating waste.
  • Recycling can meet a large proportion of the economy's demand for resources, alleviating pressure on ecosystems to provide resources and assimilate waste.
  • However, even maximum recycling cannot cover all EU demand for resources.
  • Recycling is particularly valuable in securing supplies of critical resources.
The development of recycling over the last decade is an interesting example of market forces and legislative demands working together to produce positive results. This integrated approach should be further strengthened within an EU sustainable raw material management strategy. Measures are also needed to broaden understanding of the role of recycling in realising a green economy in the EU and worldwide.

Source: European Environment Agency EEA