4 comments to “Recycling is a Feel Good Activity, But Not for Workers Hurt or Killed on the Job”

  1. Clair Morrill

    I recently worked at for a recycling center through a temporary agency in Boise, ID. The company: western recycling, I almost did not make it the first day the smell caused me to gag like I was going to puke, also the belt traveling past you causes vertigo. I was unaware of the dangers of working at a recycling center until I read your article, we get paid a little better than most places $10/hr for a 10 hr day, but the breaks are not paid for? The current minimum wage in Idaho is $7.25/hr.

  2. Hal Levin

    It is easy to believe this story although I suspect that not all operators are alike and that different operators care more or less about health and safety of their workers. As a part owner of a warehouse where electronics are recycled now (disassembled), and the parts recycled. (Ever wonder where that old computer and video monitor went? Not to mention the scanning machines used at airports by TSA and at building entrances by various types of security organizations?)

    I can attest to the hazards and intentional violations of law and regulations by the operators, not to mention the destruction of the building itself. Previously paper, cardboard, and plastic was processed in our building (by the same operator) and bundled for sales to foreign manufacturers. (Most recycled paper used in the U.S now comes from China.)

    Regarding Ms. Wiener’s comment: The effectiveness of OSHA (and states’ version of OSHA where they exist) depends largely on which political party controls the Executive Branch at Federal and State levels and which party has a majority in Congress. I testified at the OSHA oversight committee during George Bush I’s term in office – early 1990s. The Republicans on the Committee made it clear that there was no interested in improving the efficacy of the Agency in spite of horror stories told by witnesses and Democrat Members of Congress on the responsible committee and the admittedly low number of inspections and citations in the previous year.

  3. Brian Joseph

    Thanks for your comment, Robin. Regarding your statement about the average pay of scrap workers, we weren’t trying to suggest that everyone in recycling is underpaid. But as we illustrated in our story, there are certainly some workers in the industry that receive low wages – some even less than minimum wage.

  4. Robin Wiener

    This piece ignores all those in the recycling industry who are committed to workplace safety within their operations. The incidents highlighted in the article, while terribly tragic, are not representative of the industry’s overall dedication to safety and the significant steps companies across the industry have made over the years to improving workplace safety. Painting such a broad brush over an industry as diverse and large as the recycling industry does a disservice to both your readers and to the more than 149,000 workers employed in the U.S. based recycling industry.

    For a so-called “investigative report,” the author clearly failed to uncover the numerous examples in plain sight of recyclers making significant investments to create a culture of safety within their operations. For example, there are 40 recycling companies recognized for effective safety programs through OSHA’s VPP and SHARP programs. There are 200 recycling operations certified by third party auditors to RIOS™, the Recycling Industry Operating Standard, an integrated Quality, Environment, Health and Safety (QEHS) Management system.

    And I would like to know in what country the author would consider an average wage plus benefits of $77,153 to be “crap money” (“Economic Impact Study of the U.S.-Based Scrap Recycling Industry, 2015,” John Dunham & Associates).

    At the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the trade association representing the for-profit recycling industry, safety is our number one core value. There is no one in this industry who wants to knock on a door at the end of the day and tell a family their loved one is not coming home. To that end, ISRI joined with OSHA last year to form an Alliance dedicated to further strengthening industry safety efforts and control of workplace hazards, while also reducing workplace incidents.

    The ISRI-OSHA Alliance builds on existing ISRI safety services, including ISRI’s Circle of Safety Excellence™ program, created to share safety data among companies, establish benchmarks and best practices, and form mentorships for companies seeking to improve safety programs. More than 800 recycling facilities across the country participate in the Circle.

    ISRI also launched an annual Safety Stand-Down Day program two years ago to focus on key safety issues in the industry. This is all in addition to the other numerous essential tools and outreach services designed specifically to help recyclers implement successful safety programs, and largely available free of charge.

    As the above illustrates, a full investigation of what is happening in the recycling industry regarding safety certainly results in a much different picture than that reported.

    Sincerely,
    Robin Wiener
    President,
    Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries

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