The East Wing Rotunda of the Pennsylvania Capitol was crowded with two dozen displays Jan. 22 that told an innovative story of how recycling is making a major beneficial impact on the state’s economy.
“I think we succeeded in impressing our elected representatives and visitors to the Capitol with the message that recycling is a big and very much growing part of the mainstream economy in Pennsylvania,” said Mark Pedersen, president of the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA).
The 2013 Recycling Industries Congress in the Capitol was jointly sponsored by PWIA and the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center (RMC).
Exhibitors ran the gamut from recycling processors to companies that turn recycled materials into new products such as railroad ties, compost, nursery supplies, paper, flooring, food trays, and drywall, among many others.
“It’s quite evident that since 2011, when we held our first Recycling Industries Congress, that we not only have more recycling businesses taking part, but we are also seeing an amazing increase in the sophistication and economic significance of the ventures and enterprises represented,” said Robert Bylone, president and CEO of the RMC.
This year’s event also helped mark the implementation of Pennsylvania’s landmark Covered Device Recycling Act.
As of Jan. 24, disposal of electronic devices such desktop and laptop computers, computer monitors, computer peripherals, and television sets is no longer allowed in Pennsylvania landfills and incinerators. Only recyclers certified by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are now permitted to handle the disposition of these devices.
DEP Secretary Mike Krancer, who visited the Recycling Industries Congress, said, “This event and all the vendors who participated displayed how important recycling is to energizing and revitalizing Pennsylvania’s economy. With the addition of the new electronics recycling law, Pennsylvania residents and businesses are benefiting from even more opportunities to recycle.”
The theme of the Recycling Industries Congress was “Serving the Recycling Spectrum: Processing to Products,” highlighting the fact that Pennsylvania’s recycling industries are part of a spectrum, with collection and processing at one end and the manufacture of new products using recycled materials at the other.
PWIA represents private-sector waste haulers and landfill operators as well as recyclers and is the state chapter of the National Solid Wastes Management Association.
An economic study sponsored by PWIA found that the waste industry in Pennsylvania generated nearly 31,500 jobs and contributed more than $3 billion a year to the Pennsylvania economy in expenditures, purchasing, and spending from industry wages.
The RMC’s mission is assisting businesses in recovering and using recycled materials as feedstock in new or existing Pennsylvania manufactured products; providing technical and business assistance to support manufacturing of recycled-content products; and supporting applied research that leads to commercialization of new recycling processes and product designs.
A study by the Northeast Recycling Council said 3,803 Pennsylvania establishments involved in or reliant on recycling or involved in reuse and remanufacturing generated 52,316 jobs with an annual payroll totaling of $2.2 billion, while also bringing in gross receipts of $20.6 billion.
Steven Averett is the editor of Waste Age and waste360.com.