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When you read about the advantages of creating a circular economy, one argument that keeps coming back is the number of jobs it will create. But what will these jobs actually be in? Where will they be concentrated? This blog post will give you good clues as to those answers.
Every 1,000 tonnes of electronic products creates 200 jobs in repair activities whereas landfilling creates less than 1.
In 2001, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in the US had a closer look at how many jobs could be created from dealing with electronic waste. They found that every 1,000 tonnes of electronic products created 200 jobs in repair activities whereas landfilling created less than 1. Recycling the same amount of electronic products creates a modest 15 jobs.
Recent work from the RREUSE network, a partner of this campaign, supports these estimates. Traditional re-use centres dealing with a broad range of used household goods (including furniture) on average can create around 70 to 80 jobs per 1,000 tonnes of material collected. These items are then refurbished and re-used.
The conclusion from these statistics is clear: landfilling is a job-killer.
iFixit (2015) based on figures from Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (2001): “Electronics Recycling: Economic Opportunities and Environmental Impacts”
What does this mean for Europe?
In September 2015 WRAP, the Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency Agency in the UK, published an analysis about the potential of a circular economy on the EU labour market. The study showed that the use of certain mechanisms could create 3 million extra jobs and reduce unemployment by 520,000 across EU member states by 2030. The study is the first that details the employment potential for each member state, the industries which would gain, and the new skills that would be required for these positions.
Currently, it’s estimated there are 3.4 million people employed in circular economy jobs such as repair, waste & recycling and the rental & leasing sectors across the European Union. This number could mushroom in the coming years. These findings are supported by several case studies, commissioned by the Club of Rome, for Finland, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
But there are important trade-offs to be aware of when modelling the employment effects of a move towards a more circular economy. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation points to possible rebound effects and the importance of supportive labour market policies.
The direct effects on job creation in the waste treatment and recycling sectors tend to be limited and might be even outweighed by job losses in the primary raw material and new product manufacturing sectors. Nevertheless, a more circular economy has a positive effect on employment figures because of the new jobs created in upgrade and repair services as well as remanufacturing activities, which are all comparatively labour intensive.