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New York City: recycling more costly than garbage.

According to a study by the New York City Independent Budget Office, it costs more for the city to collect and dispose of each ton of recycling than each ton of garbage. IBO estimates that the cost per ton of the city's curbside and containerized recycling program is $291, which is 13 percent more than the cost per ton of handling the city's garbage, $257.

IBO attributes the higher cost of recycling to the lower productivity of recycling collection, measured as tons collected per truck shift. "Since the volume of recycling set out at curbside is less than that of garbage, a truck shift of the same--or even greater--distance will collect less in recycling than it will in garbage," the study explains. "Simply put, the cost of paying two uniformed sanitation workers to drive an eight-hour shift collecting recyclables is the same as the cost of paying them for an eight-hour shift collecting trash, but yields fewer tons of recyclables than the same shift would yield tons of refuse. The result is a higher cost of collection per ton."

IBO predicts that the gap in costs will shrink as exporting the city's garbage becomes more expensive and as the city fully restores its recycling program in April. In 2003, New York suspended the collection of glass and plastic recyclables to reduce expenses. However, the Bloomberg administration has announced that it intends to fully restore the recycling program, with the weekly collection of paper, metal, glass, and plastic. IBO expects that more recycling will be diverted from garbage when the program is restored, increasing the productivity of recycling collection and driving down the per-ton and incremental costs.

Among IBO's other findings is that recycling paper costs less per ton than recycling other materials and even less per ton than handling garbage. The city earns an average of $7 per ton for paper, which helps offset the cost of recycling, while the city must pay $22.46 per ton in processing fees for metal, glass, and plastic. According to IBO, this is a principal reason why the administration eliminated the recycling of metal, glass, and plastic, but not paper, in 2003. IBO points out, however, that preserving the natural environment may be worth the price of recycling until the process becomes more cost-effective.

"Refuse and Recycling: Comparing the Costs" is available in its entirety at
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Title Annotation:News & Numbers
Publication:Government Finance Review
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Previous Article:GFOA welcomes new director of research and consulting.
Next Article:Winter Meeting recap.

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