When Recycling Scores, The Community Wins
Among the many holidays and observances we recognize and celebrate, few have the economic, social and environmental impact of today – November 15, America Recycles Day.
While this observance does not include the typical festivities and decorations of other holidays, it does provide an opportunity for us to come together as business leaders and concerned citizens to create a healthier and more prosperous world.
America Recycles Day is about inspiring environmental stewardship and realizing the positive economic impact of recycling. At face value, recycling contributes to a cleaner environment for the world in which we live, work and play. But the simple act of recycling does more than just transform discarded items into new products. It creates jobs and economic value. According to a study published earlier this year by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ (ISRI), the scrap recycling industry contributed more than $1 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016 and provided 150,000+ jobs nationwide, nearly 6,000 of which were right here in Atlanta. Generating new job growth and investing money back into our economy is vital to supporting our communities. And it begins with us – the local organizations, businesses and citizens – who have a responsibility to make our communities healthier and more economically vibrant.
Last year, we saw firsthand the connection between recycling and building strong communities when Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, brought The Arthur M. Blank Foundation, the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity together to launch the “Recycle for Good” partnership. This collaborative program, which now includes Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS), focuses on collecting aluminum bottles and cans consumed at Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United games, as well as all other stadium events. Those bottles and cans are then recycled with the proceeds being donated to buy the necessary materials to build a house for a working family through Habitat for Humanity.
In other words, what would have been three million discarded soda and beer cans stuck in a Georgia landfill, is now a brand new home for a mother and her two daughters in the historic Westside neighborhood, just steps away from the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The stadium has been lauded in its inaugural season for its world-class technology and fan experience, but the untold story behind its environmentally friendly infrastructure and state-of-the art design is equally impactful. MBS, which expects to be the first NFL and MLS stadium to be LEED Platinum certified was built to reduce energy use by 29 percent, thanks in part to 4,000 solar panels that fuel the stadium’s many systems. The building also reduces water use by 47% through efforts such as storm water management infrastructure, which includes a 1.1-million-gallon storm vault and a 680,000-gallon cistern.
While launching an initiative like “Recycle for Good” isn’t easy, all it really required was the commitment and will of businesses and people to make a difference. And although on the surface an aluminum company and a world-class sports venue don’t seem to have much in common, a focus on the value of recycling and fostering more sustainable communities continues to unite our organizations.
This America Recycles Day, we encourage businesses to develop, lead and collaborate on environmentally responsible initiatives that improve the health and economic vitality of our communities. If you’re not sure where to start, look for opportunities in your daily routine to recycle – at home, work or school – that can help conserve our valuable resources.
Steve Pohl is SVP Business Performance & Execution, Novelis Inc. and Board Member, Georgia Conservancy
Scott Jenkins is General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Board Chair, Green Sports Alliance