Way back in the primordial era when recycling was a new thing, critics said it would cost thousands of jobs of people who make glass, plastic and aluminum.
With recycling as a way of life and an industry, a new report from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center says it’s responsible for 4,790 jobs and $738 million in annual value in Connecticut — directly and indirectly.
That includes the equivalent of 2,710 direct jobs of haulers, sorters, wholesalers, people at redemption centers and the like, with direct spending of $435 million on the industry. The larger numbers are indirect jobs and “induced” jobs, as the industry spends money on goods and services, and as recycling employees spend money in the community.
The report by the quasi-public CERC was done for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, the trash-to-energy agency in central Connecticut. It’s a surprising total. By comparison, there are, for example, 5,800 electrician jobs in the state.
“We’re trying to make this estimate as conservative as possible,” CERC research director Alissa DeJonge said. “We did not include composting, which actually is going to become a major issue this year because of the storm cleanup.”
The report showed that CRRA itself is responsible for 30 percent to 40 percent of the total industry employment in the state, through its recycling processing center in Hartford and satellite transfer stations. The vast majority are people doing contract work for the agency.
CRRA is eager to portray the industry as vibrant, but spokesman Paul Nonnenmacher said even the agency did not understand how big it was until the report was done. “We were all surprised when we saw the numbers,” he said. “There’s a lot of activity and it’s been under the radar forever.”
Unlike most industries, which are either public and taxpayer-financed, or private, recycling is a mix of public services, as towns pay fees for recycling, and private sales to end-users. The health sector is another example of such a blend.