Those bins you set out by the curb once a week, along with other recycling efforts nationwide, help to generate about 757,000  jobs, according to the EPA, which has crunched the numbers to show the value of recycling. In 2007 (the agency used the most recent census data for its study), those jobs accounted for $36.6 billion in wages and $6.7 billion in tax revenues. That equates to 1.57 jobs for every 1,000 tons of materials recycled.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The national recycling rate has more than quadrupled from 7 to 34 percent since 1976, and the slogan Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has become a well-used phrase in American life. Recycling bins are now common in homes, schools and work places; restaurants are composting their food waste and businesses are working with communities to offer consumers reuse and recycling opportunities.

Despite all of those efforts: One half to three quarters of annual raw material inputs to industrial economies are returned as waste to the environment within a year.

What is SMM?

Recycling is a key element of Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire life cycles. SMM represents a global shift in the use of natural resources and environmental protection.

The goal, according to the EPA: to evolve resource conservation efforts to use materials in the most productive way, with an emphasis on using less and advancing a circular economy.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that global demand for materials will increase by more than 35 percent over the next 15 years, reaching 100 billion metric tons per year.

What you can do

To step up recycling efforts, the EPA is launching the Materials Management Wizard to make it easier for individuals and organizations to find EPA sustainability tools and resources:

The Agency provides a variety of resources to help citizens and businesses get involved:  

At Home: 

For Businesses: 

For Teachers and Parents: 

Teach your children and students to create less waste with Planet Protector activities: