Warren Snow on recycling, community and employment
from The Jobs Letter No.33/ 10 February 1996
Warren Snow is driven. Living in Kaitaia he saw the local business community shrinking and employment opportunities dwindling as consumer trends favoured big stores over the small groceries and retailers. Warren was a member of a team which started a variety of non-profit community businesses through Kaitaia's Community Business & Environment Centre. And one of the projects was to take over the local dump and begin recycling.
He has since become a consultant on community-owned businesses and has worked for the Auckland City Council on waste management projects. Warren has a clear vision of the community, employment and environmental benefits of recycling and waste reduction. And he believes we are at the tip of the iceberg of opportunities.
With landfill disposal becoming less economic and sites more difficult to procure, recycling is becoming `mainstream' right around the world. Not only are there cost efficiencies for Councils by prolonging the lives of their landfills, the employment benefits, complimented by the environmental advantages point to a host of new opportunities.
Snow: "The potential is immense. Traditionally engineers and Councils have looked at waste disposal as a problem. But the fact is that if you look at the flip side, waste management holds immense opportunities. The surest sign of this is that large overseas companies have come and are still coming to capitalise on our waste. They know where the potential is."
"In employment, recycling brings opportunities in the areas where the opportunities have gone the low skill, entry level employment area."
Snow cites overseas studies which have shown that recycling creates jobs. Near Washington DC, a study "Recycling Means Business" by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) identifies that there are ten times as many jobs created through recycling as there are in landfilling systems. These jobs are in collection, sorting and processing. And what you get at the end is not an ever increasing hunger for landfill sites, but saleable commodities which provide further jobs, .
Snow: "Once you're into recycling, you've got to recognise that you're into the commodities markets. Commodities prices fluctuate, and this is why the Councils have a strong role to play in recycling. Councils can buffer the effects of commodity price fluctuations by the savings recycling makes on its landfill. A stand-alone recycler can't do that, he has to make a profit. Plus, the Council can take the basket approach, that is, allowing those commodities with higher prices at the time to subsidise those commodities which are depressed."
Councils are the key to the recycling process because;
Snow: "Recycling stacks up every time, if the key player, the Council on behalf of the people, plays its cards right..."
So is there a place for community groups in recycling?
Snow: "There is a crying need for non-profit organisations to help in the education and promotion of recycling and waste management. Councils tend not to reach down far enough to do this well. And when they do promote their programmes, it's been through large marketing firms which have proved they are not good at marketing waste programmes. Effective marketing needs foot soldiers, people who will talk to people and get them interested. The problem in NZ right now is that we have a range of people professionalising recycling, but we are not popularising waste reduction and environmental initiatives in general."
In places where recycling is not happening yet, a community group could contract to Council to do research which will fill in the details on how the Council can get effective waste management started locally, based on existing NZ examples. Where recycling exists, the community group could contact to the Council to do more education and promotion of the potential in recycling.
Snow: "For instance, your non-profit organisation could propose to Council that you will train five unemployed people to knock on doors and say, "Hey, are you having any problems with your recycling? Are you aware of what you can recycle and how the kerbside collection works? Work the area and then monitor it to see what impact you've had. You could create 500 jobs around NZ just like that. It's a great way for Council to interact with the community. Non-profits can also contract to take the message into the schools.
Interview by Dave Owens
Contact: Warren Snow, The Tindall Foundation, P.O.Box 33-181, Takapuna, Auckland phone 09 488 0170