Jobs in Recycling – Creating 5,000 Jobs in NM

Many people associate recycling as something that is good for the environment.  But, not many realize the number of jobs created and what a significant economic driver the recycling industry plays in our state and country. In fact, nationally the recycling industry represents more jobs than the car manufacturing industry. A general rule of thumb is that for every landfill job there could be 10 recycling jobs for that same amount of material handled.  The recycling industry is a $236 billion industry compared to the $45 billion waste industry.

To view the Executive Summary click here.

To view the Full Report, click here

A report released by the New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC) details the estimated number of jobs in the recycling industry and predicts how many jobs could be gained through increased recycling activities. It is estimated that close to 5,000 new direct, indirect and induced jobs will be created in New Mexico when the state recycling rate reaches 34%.

Jobs in recycling are created in four different sectors: collection, processing, manufacturing and reuse. First, the material must be collected. Then the material is processed at a facility for sale to the end-markets. The material then becomes part of the manufacturing sector, becoming a new product made from recycled-content material. The fourth sector is the reuse industry. The majority of jobs in the collection and reuse sectors remain in state. Jobs in the processing sector occurs both in-state and out-of-state, and currently the manufacturing primarily takes place out-of-state and even out-of-country.

In 2019, the actual job creation figures are probably even higher. Recycling markets are demanding high-quality material with very low contamination. To produce marketable recyclables, recycling processors from around the state and country are hiring additional staff people to sort the recyclables more thoroughly.

The report was conducted as part of NMRC’s multi-tiered Rural Recycling Development project funded by a Department of Energy grant. The report sheds light on the value of recycling activity as an economic driver and provides case studies of how communities can reach higher recycling rates.  It also describes small-scale economic development niche business models suitable for New Mexico.

Growing Recycling Businesses in New Mexico

NMRC received a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the USDA Rural Utilities division in Fall 2014 to provide technical assistance and trainings to assist small emerging and expanding private business enterprises in the recycling industry, completing December 2015.  Assistance and outreach was provided to 14 rural target communities in New Mexico: Alamogordo, Angel Fire, Catron County, Deming, Gallup, Grants, Las Vegas, Raton, Roswell, Ruidoso, Silver City, Truth or Consequences, Taos and Tucumcari. Read the press release here.

This material is the result of tax-supported research and as such is not copyrightable. It may be freely reprinted with the customary crediting of the source. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.All information presented is for reference only. This organization, its affiliates and officers make no warranty as to the financial success of any recommendation.

Project Description

The “Growing Recycling Businesses in New Mexico” project is aimed at developing and supporting the growth of recycling-related businesses that manage or utilize locally generated recyclable materials. This project is supported by job and business creation evidence as outlined in a January 2013 report commissioned by NMRC entitled “Adding 5,000 Jobs to New Mexico’s Economy: A Plan To Increase Jobs Using Recycling Based Pay-As-You-Throw and Economic Development” (available for viewing at

There are two strategies to accomplish this project:1) Work with existing business owners who are currently considering their launch or expansion into a recycling-related market and2) Grow interest and support of newly identified business owners to enter into a recycling-related market.NMRC has created 12 concise fact sheets with ideas for developing recycling-related businesses. We have distributed these concepts to local economic development and small business partners in targeted communities as well as host trainings and talks targeting entrepreneurs. These fact sheets can be downloaded by clicking on the links below.

BooksBook Recovery for Internet or Local Re-Sale
Mulch & CompostCreate Mulch or Compost, Sold Bagged or Loose
FoodFood Waste Collection Business
CardboardRecycling Collection Business Targeting Cardboard Collections
Paper Mobile Document Shredding
TextilesUpcycled clothes
GlassTiles, Custom Design, Countertops

Recycled Art
Recycled Materials Transformed Into Art, both fine, wearable and household
WoodFurniture, flooring, custom work
ReuseTarget items that are not ending up in thrift stores to either be added or start a niche for this either through local government or expand thrift/reuse store offerings
Public Private FundingPublic private partnership funding opportunities for businesses

Examine opportunities for possible expansion for existing reuse shops, launch of a specialty repair business, repair collectives
Eco-Industrial ParkIndustrial co-location of recycling and reuse businesses
Other OpportunitiesOther business opportunities

This information is provided merely to offer recycling as a potential business opportunity. Interested parties need to comply with all federal, state and local laws, registrations, licensure, as well as insurance/bonding requirements and are encouraged to contact their local small business development organizations for assistance to develop business plans, assessing viability, etc.

According to a 2013 study released by NMRC:
“In 2010 New Mexicans spent over $51 Million Dollars to Bury
over $168 Million worth of Recyclable Materials.”

How Can NMRC Help?

  • Provide business ideas
  • Provide contacts with local solid waste/recycling professionals for follow-up technical assistance
  • Identify sources for materials
  • Provide recommendations in regard to recycling equipment

See the NM Small Business Development Center for further assistance –

Local-Regional Business Development and Growth Resources
There are many options available to provide entrepreneurs with grant and loan resources, business start-up and growth advisement such as business plan development, marketing planning and business launch tactics. Finding a business counselor is a matter of finding a great fit. In most cases, there are a few different business counseling offerings serving your area.

Regional Development Corporations
Reaching out to your local or regional development corporation can provide resources for business start-up and growth assistance.To find a listing of Regional Economic Development Corporations serving areas around NM:

State Economic Development Assistance

New Mexico Economic Development Department

Find your regional representative at

Federal Economic Development Assistance

USDA Rural Development
Find your USDA Economic Development regional contact at