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[GreenYes] Re: HELP! Cost figures needed
Dear Pat:

In reviewing the literature for the past ten years, I am struck by how much
discussion there was about the various factors that influence the cost of
street and drop-off collection of recyclables but precious little about the
actual costs.  First, unlike processing operations, there is a vast range of
localized collection variables that affect the bottom-line cost of
collection.  Thus some earlier research into collection costs, like the one
done by the National Solid Waste Management Association (now part of EIA) in
the early nineties, took the position that presenting a range of typical
collection costs was problematical  due to the wide range of collection
conditions that exist and that it was more important for program managers to
be familiar with what the critical cost factors were and work out the final
costs themselves.  Second, concurrently there was I believe a wave of work
that was done on promoting full cost accounting because back then (and even
today) there was the deep seated suspician that whatever numbers were being
reported may have been "cooked" in that certain critical costs, cost
allocations, etc. were not properly handled.  I believe SERA, Inc., during
the preparation of their rersearch "Beyond Base Studies" and similar
subsequent research frequently encountered this problem.  Even during the
late nineties, research sponsored by SWANA and EPA leading up to Getting
More for Less - Improving Collection Efficiency (EPA530-R-99-038, November
1999) still takes the approach that knowing what key factors affect
collection costs is still more important and that local managers still need
to work out the numbers themselves.

Where you have someone who understands the cost data and how to handle it,
such as Barbara Stevens of Ecodata, Inc. the costs were typically reported
on a per ton and per household basis (see her article, "Recycling Costs by
the Numbers: A National Survey", Resource Recycling, September, 1994).  In
my experience, most recycling program managers prefer this cost reporting
approach because they are far more politically meaningful to them than
allocated costs by material.

Peter Anderson, in his message to this list on 1/28/02, quoted cost
estimates allocated by material from APC's plastic collection manual that is
based on the Model Cities research sponsored by APC.  However, it is also
worth noting that Ted Siegler, in writing about this research published in
the September, 1994 issue of Resource Recycling presented the same allocated
cost data on a collection cost per container basis and collection cost per
household (all numbers are in cents):

Aluminum                1.1        24
Glass                       1.8        32
Plastic                      1.7       39
Steel                        2.1        21

An article by Steve Engle and Bryan Engleson (Time and cost to collect all
plastic bottles, Resource Recycling, May 1998)
found that while the allocated net collection cost per ton for a program not
collecting plastic was estimated to be $571, the incremental cost to
collection all plastic bottles for a program already collecting some plastic
was estimated to be $11/ton.  This appears to indicate that the more
meaningful number is the incremental costs for adding materials, not the
whole allocated cost / ton number.

Finally, Helen Spiegelman, in a message to this list on 1/28/02, references
work that was done to advance looking at collection costs through the lens
of activity-based costing.  This is discussed in an article by Rick Findlay
in the May, 1996 issue of Resource Recycling in which he shows that the ABC
cost of various materials is different than from conventional operating
costing when the impact of material densities on various key cost drivers
 áPtaken into account.  However, I would caution against just taking his
numbers and running with them (he published an estimate of $370 Cn / ton for
ton ton collection costs for rigid plastic containers) since the point of
his article is that once you understand your collection costs on an ABC
basis you may be far better positioned to take the correct actions for
driving them down.  This may have, in fact happened in various local
programs since the publication of this article making his numbers, in their
cases, no longer valid.

In summary, unfortunately Pat, your request for a set of canned collection
numbers is not a straighforward one nor should you presume that whatever
numbers you do find can necessarily be construed as widely applicable for
the reasons explained above.


Roger M. Guttentag

----- Original Message -----
From: Pat Franklin <>
To: <>; <>
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2002 5:27 PM
Subject: HELP! Cost figures needed

> I need some cost numbers (PDQ) for the per ton collection costs for:
> PET bottles
> aluminum cans
> glass bottles
> Peter Anderson? Anyone.?
> Thanks!
> Pat Franklin
> Executive Director
> Container Recycling Institute
> 1911 Ft Myer Drive, Suite 702
> Arlington, Virginia  22209
> 703.276.9800  fax 703.276.9587
> ********************************************

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