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[GreenYes] FWD: Garbage Collection Rate Structures That Promote recycling
From: "Jeff Morris" <>
Reply-To: <>
Date:  Fri,  3 May 2002 08:20:23 -0700

In reply to Wayne Turner's question:

The amount and structure of your garbage collection fees compared 
with the collection charges for recycling are extremely important 
in success for your recycling program. Based on statistical work 
I've done ( and am currently doing for an organics collection 
pilot in King County, WA), bundling recycling costs into garbage 
collection fees and providing recycling collection for free (i.e., 
no additional charge) is the most significant thing you can do to 
promote diversion from the garbage can into the recycling can.

For example, in residential collection, the no additional charge 
availability of recycling increases the residential diversion rate 
by 10 or more percentage points. The same goes in grass growing 
climates such as King County for yard debris collection offerred 
at no additional charge. For commercial sector recycling, the 
availability of no additional charge recycling decreases garbage 
collection amounts per employee by over 20%, based on weighings of 
dumpsters in three cities in King County for a wide variety of 
business types, with the contracted haulers in two of the cities 
not providing "free" recycling and the contracted hauler in the 
other city providing a dumpster for recycling at no additional 
charge to any business that wanted it.

If you must charge for recycling or organics collection then the 
price ratio to pay attention to is the cost for collection of the 
second can of garbage versus the cost of recycling collection or 
organics collection. The City of Seattle is clever about this and 
charges for yard debris collection in order to promote backyard 
composting and grasscycling. But the yard debris collection charge 
is, the last time I checked it out, only about 50% of the 
additional charge for collecting a second can of garbage each 
week. Furthermore, Seattle bans yard debris from the garbage, and 
enforces it rather effectively, so the combination of ban plus 
correct pricing gets them the same kind of diversion as if they 
provided yard debris collection at no charge. And they avoid the 
waste generation impact of providing yard debris collection for 
free and thereby envouraging some residents to reduce their 
grasscycling or backyard composting efforts.

A third important incentive to pay attention to is the "steepness" 
of your garbage collection fee structure. Some places charge a 
flat fee for garbage - i.e., one fee no matter how much you put 

Others charge what is sometimes called "cost of service" fees  -- 
i.e., the fact that the garbage truck is already stopped means 
that the additional cost to collect a second can is less than the 
cost to collect just one can, so the fee for two cans tends to be 
only 30-60% more than the cost for one can. The exact percentage 
here depends on your local tipping fee since the additional fee 
will need to cover the disposal cost of the second can's contents 
as well as the cost of the collection crew's time to collect the 
second can and the additional trips to the dump that result when 
lots of folks set out two or more cans rather than just one.

And still others charge "pay by the amount set out" fees -- i.e, 
the charge for two cans or bags is twice the charge for one can or 
bag. In King County this type structure adds several percentage 
points to the residential diversion rate versus the "cost of 
service" structure. It's interesting to note that many electrical 
utilities now take this concept an additional step and charge more 
per kilowatt hour for kilowatt hours beyond certain caps than they 
charge for the intital kilowatt hours. In garbage this would be 
equivalent to charging more for the second can or bag than you 
charge for the first bag. Some communities I've studied charge as 
much as 1.2 times as much for the second can as they do for the 
first. To give a hypothetical example, this means that collection 
of one garbage can weekly would cost, say, $10 per month, and the 
cost of two cans each week would be $22 per month.

There is lots of statistical and graphical detail on these 
incentive effects in various issues of my newsletter, The Monthly 
UnEconomist, available at no charge at our website
The point to bear in mind is that economics and convenience matter 
very much, perhaps more than anything else, in household and 
business choices about whether to waste it or reduce/recycle it.

Dr. Jeffrey Morris
Sound Resource Management - Bellingham Office
112 Ohio Street, Suite 202
Bellingham, WA 982 25

360-738-0256 fax or 

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