Archived Story

Are you throwing jobs into the trash can?

Published 9:15am Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Column: Solid Waste Officer, by Randy Tuchtenhagen

There is a tall order for Americans. Changing attitudes to increase recycling and reduce waste. If we do not take action, our children or grandchildren will be stuck with the consequences of our inaction. For those who wholeheartedly support recycling and waste reduction, we have a huge challenge.

Randy Tuchtenhagen

What many people don’t realize is when we throw away our newspaper or soda can, we are actually throwing away jobs, say recent agencies who study waste.

The executive director of the Container Recycling Institute found that a nationwide container deposit program would support 90,000 jobs. Currently only 10 states have bottle deposit laws. All boast recycling rates for beverage containers double that of other states.

While we cannot depend on the federal government to tackle an issue like recycling, the state level is the most likely to take action that results in job creation and positive economic improvements. The Tellus Institute recently reported that boosting recycling from our current national rate of 34 percent to 75 percent could result in 1.5 million new jobs and a positive greenhouse gas and pollution reduction benefit nationally.

The environmental side of waste reduction and recycling is the cost for long-term care and maintenance of landfills and lack of landfill space as they reach operating capacity and air pollution. While there is extra hauling and work to collect and remanufacture recycling materials, the cost of long-term landfill care is not cheap.

The end of life cycle for all our waste should be remanufacturing and reuse, not buried out of sight and mind in a hole in the ground and left for future generations to care for it. As the world’s resources are being consumed at all-time highs and those resources are becoming more difficult and expensive to obtain, we need to focus on what we have in hand and not what we can exploit.

Recently I served as a committee member charged with the responsibility to develop a container deposit program for Minnesota that would be successful, easy and convenient for people to use and not cost a lot of money to operate. The committee comprised government, private industry and union officials.

We found many successful examples, especially in Canada. A beverage container deposit law would create jobs, increase revenue to the state and cost little to consumers. It was presented to the Legislature last year but has not been acted on. Legislators are pressured by lobbyists to not implement container deposit laws.

In our study of other states and countries that have successfully implemented such programs exemptions were made for wine and beer, certain bottled water companies and many other excuses not to be a part of the program. There is proof of economic, job and environmental benefits for the taking but sometimes common sense gets clouded with junk science, personal gain and lack of will to not bend to lobbyists.

These are pretty strong statements, but the tide of misleading facts, myths and bad information about solid waste and recycling is at an end as people begin to understand what has happened and where we are going.

Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County solid waste officer.