The United States is home to one of its biggest recycling markets.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are over 20 million tons of waste collected annually.
But that number could be much higher.
According in some ways to the recycling industry, there’s an entire market for trash.
“When you take the cost of trash, it goes up,” says Rebecca Tabor, director of the U-Renewable Initiative, a recycling trade group.
“We are seeing some waste being dumped at a much higher rate than we are going to ever recycle it.”
That’s because, according to Tabor and other recycling experts, there is a market for recycled waste.
“You can make a lot of money by selling it to a landfill or the recycler,” says Tabor.
She points to the waste being sent out of the United Kingdom and other countries as a prime example.
But it’s a different story in the United, where the recycling market is still relatively new.
For example, the UCR program in the city of San Diego, California, began in 2012 and has collected about 15,000 tons of recycling.
But there are currently about 100 companies operating there.
And Tabor says the market is “kind of growing” as more people find out about the UDR program and become interested in getting rid of it.
“People are getting more and more excited about it, and people are realizing that there’s value in the waste,” she says.
Some of that value is in the fact that some of the recyclables are very inexpensive.
The cheapest plastic recyclable is a couple of pennies, says Taver.
“A penny is the smallest unit of waste you can sell.
You can make some pretty good money by recycling it,” she explains.
The market is also expanding in other ways.
“There are now people doing the research to see what they can sell,” says Sarah Ehrhardt, director at the UCO Program for the Urenergy Institute, a trade group for recyclers.
“They’re starting to find recycling sites and sites that are better-suited for their business model.”
The biggest advantage, she says, is the fact it’s much easier to recycle than to dispose of.
“Recycling is the easiest way to recycle because it’s so inexpensive and because it requires so little space,” says Ehrardt.
“And people are also seeing the benefits of a compostable or biodegradable waste.”
Tabor is excited by this growth, and she’s hoping the industry is ready for the future.
“I think recycling is going to be a very important part of the future of this country,” she tells National Geographic.
“It will create a lot more jobs, increase incomes, create more income for people, and it will provide a way to get rid that waste out of our cities.”