With a new recycling market development center in place, the state of Pennsylvania is poised to meet its 35 percent recycling goal by 2003 — while giving the state's economy a shot in the arm.
Currently, the state recycles 32.6 percent of its waste. The recycling industry, according to the state, contributes more than $21.3 million annually to the economy, representing more than 3,200 companies and 81,300 employees.
However, to boost recycling rates, the state unveiled in May its new Recycling Market Center — an idea spawned by a recent summit held among recyclers, industry representatives and local governments. The center will implement a business plan, proposed by an industry consultant, designed to improve the market for recyclables. The plan will include a compilation and analysis of current economic, political, regulatory and technology data and how these factors affect Pennsylvania's recycling markets.
“Recycling contributes a whole lot to Pennsylvania's economy,” says Jeff McCloud, spokesman for the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “We see this as a way to boost the economy, close the recycling loop and help businesses find markets for their products.”
The center will develop and critique business plans for recycling operations, connect suppliers of recycled products with end-users and provide technical assistance. The state also has hired a buy-recycled business representative — a consultant familiar with the recycling industry — who is visiting 300 of the largest companies in the state to demonstrate the quality of recycled-content products, as well as the financial savings from buying these commodities.
At least one Pennsylvania company already has learned these benefits. As a member of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WasteWise program, which encourages buying recycled products, Bethlehem Steel used more than 73 million pounds of recycled steel and non-ferrous metals in its manufacturing processes in 1999. This saved the company more than $1.8 million, according to the EPA.
“Businesses need some help in [developing markets],” McCloud says. “[The Recycling Market Center] is one way to get to that point. It's tough for businesses to recycle and make money at the same time.”
So far, it seems that Pennsylvania's proactive approach to buying recycled is far from the norm. In fact, other states such as California provide links to the buy-recycled information on the Pennsylvania DEP's website.
“To our knowledge, no other states are taking this approach to recycling market development,” McCloud says. “We're melding economic and environmental information.”
The state also has instituted a loan program to spur recycling market development and strengthen the state's recycling infrastructure. The program provides businesses with low-interest financing to acquire new or used equipment to collect or process recyclable materials or manufacture recycled-content products.
The Pennsylvania DEP's website includes links to manufacturers of all kinds of recycled products, including automotive supplies, bottles and cans, plastics, paper and clothing. For more information, visit the DEP's website at www.dep.state.pa.us.