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[GreenYes] Model/Calculator for environmental benefits of recycling and composting



Given the recent debate on the list, I thought some of you'd be interested in the model I’ve developed for calculating the environmental benefits of recycling and composting - by material type.  The model is the culmination of a long string of projects and peer-reviewed articles going back more than five years, including work for the San Luis Obispo County (CA) Integrated Waste Management Authority, a lot of work for Seattle Public Utilities and the Washington State Department of Ecology, and most recently a project for the King County (WA) Department of Natural Resources.


The model can calculate benefits versus landfill disposal or WTE incineration disposal.  The version I would send you at this point is for disposal at a landfill that captures landfill gases and uses the gas to generate electricity.  The electricity offsets natural gas fired power production, which is our source of marginal power production here in the Northwest.  The landfill is assumed to have a 75% landfill gas capture rate.


The environmental benefits model calculates the benefits of recycling and composting on a material specific basis.  You just need to fill in your own (or any) jurisdiction's recycled tonnage in column L, rows 12 through 25, of the Summary and Valuation spreadsheet.  If you put in one ton for a material, you'll get the environmental benefits for a ton of recycling or composting on an impacts reduction basis in the standard numeraire for each type of impact -- e.g., CO2 equivalents for climate change impacts and 2,4-D equivalents for ecosystems toxicity impacts.  You'll also get the estimated economic value of those impact reductions if you want to state everything in the US market economy's dollar numeraire.


The model includes both upstream (resource extraction, resource refining, and manufacturing of products from refined feedstocks and energy resources) and end-of-life for material life cycles, but not the use phase.  The assumption is that the environmental impacts of virgin- and recycled-content products are equivalent and so they cancel out.   If you really want to get into the environmental impacts from the full life cycle (upstream extraction and manufacturing, distribution from manufacturers to retailers, product and service use by consumers, and end-of-life management for discards) of consumer products check out the Consumer Environmental Index (CEI) that we (an SRMG-led team of economists and life cycle experts) recently developed, as described on our website’s home page.


The draft report on the model is for King County Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Division.  King County wants me to be sure that anyone who sees the model with their tonnages or the report knows that they are drafts and still under review at King County.  That was their proviso for my being able to send it out at this point in time.  Based on early feedback from KC I believe that one update they may want is to put some ranges on the environmental cost estimates for the various impacts -- e.g., a first quartile to third quartile range for studies on the cost of pollution externalities.


You can email me offlist to request the two files – model plus report. 


One other note is that it would be wonderful if responses to previous messages on GreenYes only included pertinent parts of previous messages.  In fact in most cases you could get by with just an introductory sentence that references the message to which you are responding.  Otherwise those of us who use the digest version get these terribly long messages with the same messages repeated two, three, and more times ad nauseum.  Really now, give us all a break and attend to your listserve manners more thoughtfully.


Thanks for all the work you all are doing for our planet,



Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.-Economics

Sound Resource Management

2217 60th Lane NW

Olympia, WA 98502-0903



360-319-2391 mobile




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