Re: THE ANSWER to Is more recycling the answer

Frank Ackerman (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:12:36 -0500

I agree that recycling often does not make money -- but it often doesn't
lose much, either. The numbers, seen in perspective, support this view.
Take for example Jim Polk's two statements "less than 50% of the
population is willing to pay more than $2.50 per month for curbside
recycling", and "Boston could have saved $1 million per year by not

Boston has a population of about 600,000, or perhaps 250,000 households.
Thus Boston could have saved $4.00 per household per year by not
recycling. If, however, 50% of the households were willing to pay $2.50
per month = $30.00 per year for recycling, I imagine that a huge majority
would have been willing to pay $4 per year. People are sometimes willing
to do things that don't immediately save money, contrary to the impression
one gets from the mass media in the 1990s.

Tierney's numbers for New York City, suspicious as they may be, imply that
even in the Big Apple, the net cost of recycling might be $2.50 to $5.00
per month -- and everything is more expensive there. So in general, net
costs of well-run programs are within the range that people are willing to

(Moreover, I think those willingness-to-pay numbers are from surveys in
small southern and southwestern communities, of below-average incomes and
waste disposal costs; one would expect greater willingness to pay in
Boston or especially in NYC.)

See my response to Tierney in the November-December Dollars & Sense
magazine, my article in the November-December Tikkun magazine, or best of
all my forthcoming book, "Why Do We Recycle? Markets, Values, and Public
Policies" (Island Press, available mid-December).

Frank Ackerman
Global Development and Environment Institute
Tufts University

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