How many people work in the recycling industry?

Recycling statistics in Colombia 2019

The union warns that today only the collection and disposal of garbage is catalogued as such and not recycling, so that in the event of a possible scenario of a general quarantine, they risk not being able to continue operating. The reception of materials in the recycling plants has already decreased by 30%, and in the event of a stoppage – the industry affirms – more than 10 thousand jobs are at risk in the 29 member companies of the National Association of the Recycling Industry (ANIR) alone, in addition to affecting the manufacture of containers and packaging for the food industry, and the nascent culture of recycling in the citizens. “Until when we talk about garbage for everything,” criticizes Alejandro Navech, general manager of ANIR.

“Also, supermarket chains are large generators of plastics, cardboard and other waste that they cannot accumulate indefinitely and that they would be obliged to dispose of in landfills, saturating the garbage collection network and increasing the sanitary risk,” added the union in a press release.

Recycling in Colombia 2021

However, the greatest progress is visible in six European countries that have achieved recycling levels exceeding 50% of their total annual waste, namely: Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

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In the first case, recycling reaches practically 100% thanks to the heavy penalties imposed by the government on those who do not comply with this standard due to the fact that it is mandatory. Penalties include fines exceeding US$11,000 in the most severe cases.

Switzerland’s position as a contemporary pioneer of recycling in the world also has to do with the facilities and benefits of recycling within the country itself. These include a meticulous sorting of containers, which allows 93% of glass, 91% of cans and 83% of plastic bottles to be recycled. In addition, the country has had incinerators for material that cannot be recycled since the beginning of the century, which generate energy in around 250,000 homes.

Switzerland is closely followed by Sweden, as its modern recycling system allows it to reach 99% of its waste with this practice since 2017. This is due to a meticulous organization in its system, which has led to the placement of garbage stations in every residential area of the country, a requirement protected by the country’s laws.

Companies that buy recycling

One of the most outstanding data is that the paper sector increased its production by 3.3%, and rebounded in the external market with an increase of 24.3% in paper exports, thus contributing to the growth of the national economy.

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Between 2010 and 2017, more than 7 million tons of post-consumer paper and cardboard stopped going to landfills thanks to the collection work carried out and promoted by the sector with the recycling chain.

The report also highlights the good environmental management of the sector, the efficient use of resources and the commitment to future generations, since from 2010 to 2017, the companies managed to reduce by 7.23% the uptake of water per ton produced. Likewise, it reduced energy consumption by 18.3% and reduced CO2 emissions by 4.6%.

These actions are in line with Colombia’s commitments under the Paris agreement, which establishes measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through mitigation, adaptation and resilience of ecosystems to the effects of global warming.

Recycling company

The coronavirus pandemic has strongly impacted solid waste recycling.  For the sector to survive and grow, creativity and a review of the regulatory and incentive frameworks are required.

Another important aspect of the sector is its high level of informality. The region has more than 2 million grassroots recyclers, who contribute more than 50% of the material that is recovered. Only 10% of the region’s recyclers are part of a cooperative or organization. The vast majority carry out their activity independently and informally. Less than 5% of our cities have recycling programs that include recyclers as part of the recyclable waste management system. In other words, recycling in Latin America and the Caribbean is informal.

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Recycling is one of the main strategies to address the challenge of municipal solid waste. While “reduction” and “reuse” can have important impacts, if the underlying objective is to divert as much waste as possible from disposal sites, recycling is the best alternative to address this issue at scale.