Discussion Paper

The Cost of Reducing Municipal Solid Waste

Abstract

This paper explores public policies for reduction of municipal solid waste. We parameterize a simple model of waste disposal using supply and demand elasticities from the economics literature and 1990 prices and quantities of recyclable and recycled materials. Using this model, we calculate the waste reduction in response to three public policies: (i) deposit/ refunds, (ii) advance disposal fees, and (iii) recycling subsidies. The results illustrate the effects of the three policies on source reduction and recycling of five recyclable materials that comprise 56 percent of municipal solid waste: aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and steel. The calculated responses provide information about the cost of reducing municipal solid waste through various policies. This analysis suggests that a 7.5 percent reduction in disposal of the solid wastes in the model might have been optimal in 1990 from a benefit-cost perspective.