By Sen. Tom Carper and Sen. John Boozman
Every year as summer turns to fall, it's hard not to stop, look around, and contemplate the beauty of our country. From the splendor of the forests and farmlands of Arkansas and the Southeast, to the cool, crisp scenes of Delaware and the mid-Atlantic, the U.S. is filled with natural beauty and it's important to keep it that way. That's why every November, folks across the nation take part in an effort to maintain America's natural beauty by participating in America Recycles Day -- a time to think about what each of us can do to be better environmental stewards while simultaneously strengthening our economy for future generations.
As co-chairs of the Senate Recycling Caucus, we are working with our colleagues and stakeholders to raise awareness of the many benefits of recycling. Most Americans are familiar with traditional municipal recycling efforts that encourage individuals to recycle household or office goods such as paper or soda cans and bottles. Every little bit helps when it comes to recycling and we are encouraged that municipal recycling rates are increasing year after year, and we strongly encourage further participation in these programs.
But there's more to recycling than just traditional municipal recycling programs. The United States is home to robust and growing commercial recycling and re-manufacturing industries. For example, the recycling and re-manufacturing industries generated more than $236 billion in annual revenue in past years and created more than one million good-paying American jobs. Also encouraging, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries notes that scrap recycling generates $4 billion in state and local revenues annually. Increasing recycling rates and collection programs continue to contribute to the economic growth of these industries which in turn helps the larger American economy.
These statistics offer a window into the benefits of recycling nationally, but we have also seen recycling success stories first hand in our home states. In Arkansas, this success story is found in the rebirth of the American steel industry. Today more than 60 percent of the steel in the United States is produced by recycling scrap metal. Innovation in steel recycling technology has enabled the U.S. steel industry to reduce its energy intensity by 28 percent since 1990. One Arkansas company, Nucor, has the capacity to recycle 6 million tons of steel per year in Arkansas, and over 27 million tons nationwide, making it North America's largest recycler. Recycling and re-manufacturing enables American workers to compete in a global market flooded with subsidized foreign steel.
Similarly, Delaware has realized significant economic and environmental benefits since Delaware's Universal Recycling Law was passed in 2010. A recent report showed that in 2012, more than 40 percent of recyclables in the state were diverted from landfills and Delaware's recycling, reuse, and re-manufacturing industry contributed $346 million to the State's economy in 2009. For example, the recycling boost has spawned opportunities in the poultry industry. In 2001 Perdue Farms created -- with the encouragement and support of the State of Delaware -- the Perdue AgriRecycle plant in southern Delaware. It takes raw poultry litter and processes it into an pelletized, organic fertilizer sold to Scotts and Holly Tone for use on lawns, park land and golf courses throughout the First State and beyond. Recycling poultry litter amounts to a "win-win" situation by enabling poultry producers to responsibly manage the disposal of poultry litter - which benefits the surrounding watershed and fishing economy -- while also creating a valuable organic fertilizer.
Additionally, a number of Delaware restaurants are now recycling compostable food waste. This lowers their waste disposal costs and nurtures a growing industry utilizing yard waste to make rich mulch and compost soil.
In short, our country is recycling everything from aluminum cans, cardboard, and glass bottles to electronics, cars, and refrigerators. The recycling and remanufacturing industries give our country access to valuable raw materials -- including rare and expensive materials - while reducing energy use, air and water pollution, and the need for old methods of waste disposal.
In honor of America Recycles Day, we invite you to join us in making a concerted effort to recycle. When you recycle, you literally reinvest in American manufacturing, providing raw materials for America's factories and economic opportunity for your community. You can be a part of the solution, helping to responsibly support and preserve both our environment and economy.