[GRRN] Record-Setting Recyclers

Brenda Platt (bplatt@ilsr.org)
Wed, 20 Oct 1999 14:19:50 +0000


Communities Set New Records in Recycling
and Reduce Costs

October 1999
For immediate release

Contact: Kelly Lease
(202) 232-4108
email: <recycling@ilsr.org>

Washington, D.C. — A new report brings good news for communities aiming
to reduce dependence on disposal. Reuse and recycling (including
composting) can cut their waste stream in half. "Cutting the Waste
Stream in Half: Community Record-Setters Show How," researched and
produced by the Washington, DC office of the Institute for Local
Self-Reliance (ILSR), documents 18 communities with waste reduction
levels ranging from 40 to 65%. Most report 50% and higher levels.
Furthermore, these high waste reduction levels are largely being
achieved cost-effectively. The research was funded under a grant from
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which also published the

"Cutting the Waste Stream in Half" comes at a time when recycling gains
seem to have slowed. Interstate shipments of trash are on the rise.
Mergers of large trash hauling companies point to shrinking investments
in recycling. Aluminum, glass, and plastic beverage container recycling
rates have dropped in the last few years. Some states have abandoned
their recycling goals and the nation’s recycling level seems to have
stagnated at 28% in 1997, not much greater than the 27% level reported
the previous year. The record-setters profiled in "Cutting the Waste
Stream in Half" are bucking these trends, paving the way for others to
follow suit.

"This report convinces me that many other communities will be able to
reduce their waste streams by more than half while reducing costs at the
same time," says Bob Dellinger, Director of EPA’s Municipal and
Industrial Solid Waste Division. Cutting the Waste Stream in Half
profiles in detail the operating experience, program features, and costs
of model waste reduction programs in communities large and small, rural
and urban.

Some examples the report documents:

* Dover, New Hampshire’s residential waste reduction level increased
from 3% to 52% after implementing per-bag trash fees and curbside
recycling. Per household costs for solid waste management dropped from
$122 to $73.

* Fitchburg, Wisconsin, has cut its residential waste in half through
mandatory recycling of a wide range of materials and pay-as-you-throw
trash fees. Despite a nearly 20% growth in households, the town
landfilled less waste in 1996 than in 1992 and reduced per household
waste handling costs from $126 to $108.

* Falls Church, Virginia, eliminated a second trash collection day and
cut personnel costs by adding multi-material curbside recycling and
composting service. As a result, its annual solid waste costs decreased
by $420,000. The town recovers 65% of its residential waste.

* Seattle, Washington’s diverse waste reduction efforts have resulted in
a 44% recycling level but per household waste management costs have not
increased since 1987, when the municipal recycling program was first

The report highlights keys to program success: targeting a wide range
of materials, composting, designing programs for convenience, using
pay-as-you-throw trash fees where residents pay for trash by the can or
bag, and requiring resident participation.

"These are straightforward common-sense approaches that can be adapted
by many other communities," says Kelly Lease, ILSR’s lead researcher on
its Waste Reduction Record-Setters project. "Communities can pick and
choose the best features of the best models to design their own
record-setting program. We hope our research findings will ultimately
help boost recycling nationwide."

"The achievements of these record-setting communities are remarkable in
light of the unlevel playing field on which recycling is forced to
compete with wasting," according to Brenda Platt, ILSR's Waste Reduction
Record-Setters project director. "Consider the impact on recycling if
landfills reflected their true environmental and public health costs, if
virgin materials subsidies were eliminated, if manufacturers had
cradle-to-grave responsibility for their products and packages, if cost
analyses accounted for the jobs and businesses recycling creates."

"Cutting the Waste Stream in Half" (EPA-530-R-99-013) and an upcoming
companion fact sheet packet of the same title (EPA-530-R-99-017) are
available free through the RCRA hotline 1-800-424-9356. Contact the
Institute for Local Self-Reliance for more information on its Waste
Reduction Record-Setters project and related products and services (2425
18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009, 202-232-4108, Web site:


The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is a nonprofit research and
educational organization that provides technical assistance to city and
state governments, citizen organizations, and industry to promote
sustainable economic development. For more information on ILSR, its
programs, and its publications, contact ILSR at 2425 18th Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20009, phone (202) 232-4108, fax (202) 332-0463, or
visit its World Wide Web Page at http://www.ilsr.org.