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[GreenYes] Waste volumes

Dan et al,
I think it's safe to say here in NC where I work and play that your first statement is true.  Sorry for not mentioning where I was.~
As I was doing my analysis of the data it occurred to me that something was slightly inconsistent with gross retail sales  - doesn't include service related data - and that a more accurate indicator for the economic side would be gross county product.  North Carolina does not compute gross county product, only gross domestic product at the state level.  Be that as it may, it's still interesting that gross retail sales and population are both very strong indicators of waste trends and vice versa.  I have to admit, my initial reason for studying this data was to attempt to prove that the economy had a stronger impact on waste generation and disposal than population.  That simply isn't the case, so far.  Here in NC our waste reduction goals are measured in waste disposal per capita so that's why I was going down that road.  I was thinking tons disposed per $1,000 gross retail sales might be a better metric to measure the success of our recycling and other diversion programs.  I did not analyze the volume and velocity issue in detail but by comparing the graphs of the two data series I did see seasons where it appeared the waste data lagged the sales data by a month or two.  (holidays, vacations?)
Private landfills and transfer station competition notwhithstanding, our MSW tonnages have remained fairly level too until this past FY when they began showing declines.  Was this a harbinger of the slowdown in the economy?  Maybe landfill disposal data is our new economic crystal ball.
I think the fact that our residential compost/yard waste program still continues to thrive is because it's a free (general fund/property tax based) program with no user fee attached.  The residential sector is the primary contributor to our yard waste tonnages, on the order of 95+% of the total.  In a sour economy, everyone will continue to use free services I suppose.  On the other hand, the small business person or resident who no longer wants to pay a tip fee or flat rate to dispose of waste at the landfill - and save gas - may illegally dump waste.  I agree with a compost facility in every county and even with a fee imposed.  I'm a believer in paying for what you get but when the economy goes to hell in a handbasket, our behaviors change just as dramatically.  Anyone want to bring in the scavenging issue now?
In response to David's inquiry, we track generation and disposal data for the county every year.  Generation has increased every year here in the county for the past 10 years.  Disposal has also increased but not quite at the same rate while diversion seems increase only minutely.  So the net result is more LF disposed.

>>> Dan Knapp <dr.ore@no.address> 10/29/2008 3:30 PM >>>
Hello Wayne:

Would it be correct to say that for 100 counties in California over the last decade, solid waste tonnages, population, and gross retail sales tend to stay in sync with each other?  Put another way, for most communities, when population and retail sales go up or down together, do solid waste tonnages go up or down more or less with the same volume and velocity?

This would be interesting to know, because in our part of California, the San Francisco Bay Area, waste tonnages for most counties have remained more or less stable for the last thirteen years, since 1995.  San Mateo's landfilling decreased .3%; Santa Clara County had no net change.  San Francisco and Alameda County volumes have increased .1% and .5%, respectively.  Meanwhile, throughout our area both population and retail sales have increased, I believe.

Your experience suggests compost facilities may turn out to be more or less "recession proof".   This makes sense, because plants just keep growing and dying without much regard for the vicissitudes of the "real economy".  That's a good argument for having compost facilities in every community instead of concentrated on agricultural lands.  The tip fees and product sales from compost disposal can then act as a stabilizing force within the local economy.

Dan Knapp
Urban Ore, Inc., a reuse and recycling company in Berkeley, California since 1980

On Oct 29, 2008, at 7:51 AM, Wayne Turner wrote:

Good point Jerry.  We own 3 public facilities, one MSW LF, one C&D LF and one Compost facility.  All three facilities are large in comparison to other, similar facilities in the state and serve a large metropolitan area of around 250,000 people.  Volume declines here apply to the MSW and C&D facilities.  The compost facility does not currently show declines from this same time last year.
I have examined 10 years of state solid waste data county by county (100 counties) and compared waste tonnages against both county population and gross retail sales.  The difference in the correlation between solid waste tonnages and population vs solid waste tonnages and gross retail sales is negligible.  It will be interesting to see if that trend continues through this economic slump.  Have other states done similar analyses and found the same trends?

>>> "Jerry Powell" <jpowell@no.address> 10/29/2008 10:38 AM >>>
When discussing the effect of current economic problems on waste flows, we need to distinguish between waste types.  The publicly traded waste haulers are reporting more severe drop offs in waste volumes from their C&D customers than they report declines from commercial and residential sources.  Thus, when a landfill reports a decline, we need to know the types of waste handled at the facility.  That said, the history of waste flows during recessions shows a decline typically occurs.  
Jerry Powell
Resource Recycling
E-Scrap News
Plastics Recycling Update
PO Box 42270
Portland, OR 97242-0270
(503) 233-1305
(503) 233-1356 fax

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