Monday, June 30, 2008

New York City Study Confirms the Financial Benefits of Recycling

Two years ago I published an analysis of the costs and benefits of recycling in the News Journal:
Conventional wisdom declares that recycling, while a nice idea for reducing landfill accumulation, is hard to justify in terms of the costs. But financial analysis of the projected need to invest in landfill expansion and construction leads to the conclusion that that increasing the recycling rate in Delaware would create significant economic benefits.
Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report concluding that recycling in New York City was a cost effective alternative to disposal in a landfill or incinerator. The findings are described in an NRDC press release:
Moreover, the study notes that recycling costs will drop even further as more residents participate in the recycling program and collection rates increase, because the price per ton will go down. Currently, sanitation crews collect fewer recyclables per shift than trash, resulting in a marginally higher cost per ton for collecting recyclables than regular trash.
Additionally, the report found that the overall costs of processing – as opposed to collecting – the city’s recyclables at local recycling plants is currently significantly less than the cost of processing trash, which includes additional transportation costs and high fees for out-of-state incineration and landfilling.
The report carefully compares collection and disposal costs:
  • The citywide costs per ton of curbside collection and disposal of recyclables in fiscal year 2005 (the most recent year for which complete data were available) were very close to the costs per ton of curbside collection and disposal of non-recycled refuse. Specifically, we concluded that the overall FY ’05 cost per ton of curbside recycling was $284 dollars per ton vs. $267 per ton for curbside refuse, representing a difference of roughly six percent. (See pages 19-20.)
  • This is a relatively insignificant difference given the type of accounting method utilized by DSNY to allocate large shared refuse and recycling costs. (See page 3-4, 19.)
  • The primary reason for the slightly higher per ton citywide cost for curbside recycling in FY ‘05 is simply that recycling collection crews collected fewer tons per shift than refuse collection crews. (See page 20.)
  • Indeed, the overall cost of processing – as opposed to collection – a ton of the city’s recyclables is currently significantly less than the cost the city must pay companies to bury or burn a ton of the city’s regular trash.
Once again, the conventional wisdom that environmental benefits come at a cost has been refuted by careful analysis.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

I caught you on the Korn show, Tom. It is always interesting to have the economic shades drawn to filter any blinding political 'news' through a facts-based contemplation.
Korn seemed to be goading you into revealing some exciting future venture...a stab at office?

8:21 AM, July 01, 2008  

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