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Less Waste = More Jobs

Let’s Stop Throwing Away Our Chance to Create Millions of Jobs and End Waste Pollution

By John Ribeiro-Broomhead, Co-Author of the Study, Zero Waste and Economic Recovery: The Job-Creation Potential of Zero Waste Solutions

As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls into 2021, governments around the world continue to try to get their economies back on track. Schools have closed, workers have been laid off, in-person gatherings have been curtailed, and all the while, people have continued to breathe air pollution from waste incinerators, greenhouse gases have continued to accumulate in the atmosphere, and millions of tons of solid waste have built up in landfills, open dumps, streets, and waterways worldwide. In short, the pandemic has only added to the daunting pile of challenges faced by societies across the planet.

Luckily, GAIA is publishing Zero Waste and Economic Recovery: The Job Creation Potential of Zero Waste Solutions, the first in a series of publications in our #BeyondRecovery campaign, demonstrating how zero waste strategies can aid in economic recovery while helping achieve social, environmental and waste management goals. 

In the context of COVID-impacted economies, this staggering difference can’t be ignored. And while data availability limited the scope of the report to repair, recycling, remanufacturing, and composting, other studies suggest even larger job gains from zero waste strategies like deposit return systems. Moreover, zero waste systems create better jobs than those in disposal, generating opportunities for workers to implement skills beyond basic manual labor, providing higher wages, offering more permanent positions, and improving quality of life. All of the details can be read in the report, and a summary of the key findings can also be found in this infographic.

mean job generation figures for each waste management method per ten thousand tonnes of waste processed per year.

Zero waste strategies can add a lot of local jobs. We estimate the number of new jobs that can be created by diverting 80% of recyclable and compostable waste, not even counting jobs from other zero waste systems: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam would create 18,818 jobs, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania would create 18,133 jobs, and Sao Paulo would create a whopping 36,701 jobs.

We can’t go back to a world where resources are trashed, low-income and marginalized communities are dumped on, and polluting industries relentlessly take, make, and waste. This study shows a new way forward where we can both tackle some of the world’s biggest environmental hurdles, and create millions of good jobs, particularly for those most impacted by our current system. 

Zero Waste and Economic Recovery: The Job Creation Potential of Zero Waste Solutions is only the first publication in the Beyond Recovery series, which will show how zero waste strategies can not only create jobs, but also save municipalities money and improve economic conditions for the worst-off. All in all, the multiple benefits of fewer waste-related environmental impacts and increased economic growth make zero waste strategies a win-win option that governments struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic can’t afford to miss.

Click here to find other publications in the #BeyondRecovery series!