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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Creating Green Jobs Through Recycling

Did you know that the American recycling industry is larger than our auto industry? According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, every 10,000 tons of solid waste going to landfills, 1 job is created. That same amount of waste – kept out of landfills – can create 10 recycling jobs or 75 materials reuse jobs.

California’s Green Economy Survey estimates that recycling workers make up 27% of the state’s 433,000 green economy jobs. The survey also found that recycling and buying recycled products were the top sustainable business practices.

To support green jobs and conserve resources, EPA’s Pacific Southwest office awarded a $50,000 Resource Conservation competitive grant to the non-profit California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) in 2008 to develop a training and certification program for Resource Conservation Professionals.  The initial $50,000 grant spurred a larger collaboration, attracting a $4.87 million Department of Labor grant to advance Jobs Through Recycling.

Recycling at a farmers market
Michael Siminitus (certification program graduate) and Randi MacNear on day one at the Zero Waste Davis Farmers' Market.

Under the initial EPA grant, over 50 training courses have been held across California with over 640 enrollees, including 64 tribal members.  Job seekers, recent college graduates, retirees, veterans, military, business, and government workers are among the diverse participants.  Some  trainees are already in the field and are upgrading their skills, while others are seeking a new green career path.  Courses offered include:

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The training emphasizes the strong connection between materials (“our stuff") and climate change because 42% of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with materials management and opportunities to reduce these impacts through materials’ choices, product and packaging design, waste reduction, recycling, and composting.

Certification requires taking 32 hours of training, passing tests, and developing and implementing a “Information to Action” hands-on waste reduction project.  Graduates have started a tribal recycling program, converted a farmer’s market to Zero Waste, and partnered with local charities and businesses to start community recycling programs.

The certified professionals graduating from the program gain a new appreciation of how they can contribute to a zero waste future.  One graduate, Michael Siminitus, started his own business, WasteBusters, which manages Zero Waste events and business services.

CRRA’s certification program is now being expanded through a green job training grant.  Last year, the U.S Department of Labor’s Community-Based Job Training grant program awarded a $4.87 million “Jobs Through Recycling” grant.  The California Works Alliance project partners include Santa Monica College, Irvine Valley College, Golden West College, CRRA, and the Recycling Organizations of North America and others.  They are developing a community college resource management job training and certification program for 660 job-seeking students in Southern California and develop a national recycling professional certification standard.

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