Growing regional jobs through recycling

By Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting Group

For every job in landfill we create 3 jobs in recycling. For every 10,000t of waste we landfill we generate 3 landfill jobs vs 9.2 recycling jobs. Recycling offers enormous potential for regional jobs growth and is a key component of a circular economy.

For example, we landfill over 10 million tonnes of organic waste per year (food, garden waste, pallets and timber). If we recovered those streams from waste and composted them locally, we could create over 9,200 new jobs. With over a third of that organic waste generated in regional Australia that is 3,000 new regional jobs. Local recession proof jobs turning waste streams back into compost for our farmers and sports fields.

Recycling does not only lead to jobs growth but also has enormous environmental benefits. If every household in QLD had an organics bin (3 bin system) to collect kitchen and garden organics, that would generate a large number of regional composting jobs and produce valuable compost for farmers. If all of that compost was given to the sugar cane industry it would reduce nutrient runoff to the reef enormously. In fact, for the same sugar cane productivity it would reduce runoff of Nitrogen by 40% and Phosphorous by 80%.

Huge environmental benefits for the reef while growing regional jobs.

Dealing with China’s recent ban on Australian recyclables also offers enormous opportunities for regional jobs growth. Australia needs to on-shore and build secondary plastic processing to produce flake and pellet for export rather than raw bottles. This will employ hundreds of people in reprocessing. Over 200 jobs could be created in local plastic processing plants.

Similarly, 30% of the yellow top recycling bin is glass. The oversupply of glass is a problem and an opportunity. If we build glass to sand facilities at the 40 regional MRFs in Australia, we will grow local jobs whilst keeping our waste streams local and turning them into valuable products. Over 200 jobs could be created in glass sand businesses.

Australia needs to build at least $5b of new infrastructure just to achieve the existing State Government targets for waste management.

That will generate a large number of jobs. Over a third of that investment needs to take place in regional Australia in the form of commercial waste sorting plants, anaerobic digestion (AD), concrete and soil reprocessing, energy from waste (EfW), container deposit schemes (CDS) etc. That will generate thousands of new jobs in regional Australia. Recycling and Resource Recovery offer huge regional development opportunities and will underpin Australia’s transition to a circular economy.

At the 2019 Australian Regional Development Conference, Mike Ritchie delivered the following presentation on how to Grow Regional Jobs Through Recycling:

The 2019 Australian Regional Development Conference was be held at Twin Waters, Sunshine Coast, from Monday 16 – Tuesday 17th September 2019. Over two days, the conference brought together academics, practitioners, policy makers, community leaders and Australia’s quiet achievers into one forum.