The Waste Prevention Gold Mine in the 1992 Plan

Maggie Clarke, 1999


In response to a query about the benefits and costs of waste prevention, I looked at the '92 Plan, and there are a number of times waste prevention is discussed in some detail:  Chapter 3 (beginning), Chapter 4 (beginning), Chapter 7 (beginning), and Chapter 17.  There's even more here than I had remembered. 


Potential for Waste Prevention in NYC, Year 2000

On page 7-11, Table 7.1.5-1 the Potential for Waste Prevention (Year 2000) shows the tonnage and percent prevented for residential (250,000 tons, 7%), institutional (90,000 tons, 10%), and commercial (330,000 tons, 9%).  The overall rate of prevention is just over 8%.


Monetary Savings and Environmental Impacts avoided by Instituting Waste Prevention Recommendations promised in 1992 SWM Plan


Pages 17.2-2 to 17.2-3

The estimates that follow are based on assumptions documented in Appendix Volumes 3 and 7.1.


The proposed prevention program is expected to produce reductions in NYC's waste stream of about 4% in 1995, and of about 7% by the year 2000, when the program would be fully implemented.  (See Appendix Volume 7.1 for a detailed analysis of modeled prevention-program impacts using a range of waste-stream projections.)  In the year 2000, this would amount to approximately 600,000 tons a year, composed primarily of the following types of materials:  office and computer paper, corrugated cardboard, and mixed paper; grass; glass; and furniture and large appliances (bulk waste).  Based on calculations obtained by modeling the City's proposed waste-management system with and without these prevention programs in place, the "avoided costs" to the City's waste-management system due to these reductions are estimated to be in the range of $87 to $92 million in the year 2000, or $700 to $800 million cumulatively between 1992 and 2010 (in net-present-value terms).


On the collection side, a reduction of 600,000 tons a year would reduce collection costs by $26 to $29 million in the year 2000 (because the number of truckshifts would be reduced by 4 to 5%).  Vehicle miles traveled would be reduced by 1.6 million miles per year (using System B for illustrative purposes):  a 3% decrease, which would reduce vehicular air emissions by a comparable amount (but have only a negligible effect on reducing collection noise).


On the processing side, a reduction of 600,000 tons a year would reduce facility capital and operating costs by $58 to $60 million; require 750 million fewer gallons of water a year for rinsing recyclables (by generators) and 100 to 200 million fewer gallons of water in waste-processing facilities; reduce air emissions from recycling facilities by about 5%, from waste-to-energy facilities by 6% (System A) or 7% (System B), from landfills by 18 to 22% (A,B), and from ashfills by 6-7% (B,A); reduce facility acreage requirements by about 14 acres; demands on landfill capacity by about 15%, and ashfill capacity by about 8%.


The estimated cost of a partial prevention program (for backyard composting and public education) is $20 per ton in the year 2000, while the full avoided cost would be on the order of $140 per ton for System A and $150 per ton for System B.  As much as $120 to $130 per ton in prevention programs therefore could be added before costs would exceed benefits.  The effects of a more-effective-than-projected prevention program and of a less-effective-than-projected program are represented in Figure 17.2.1-1, which shows that prevention programs become increasingly cost-effective as prevented percentages increase.  The reason for this is that larger prevented tonnages allow relatively greater reductions in truck shifts and facility capacity; conversely, when reductions are smaller, fewer savings are captured through reduced collection and facility costs.



Regarding System A and System B, Table 15.3-1 on page 15-26 compares the two:


System A:                                                                    System B:


Collection System                                                       Collection System

High Quality Recyclables                                           High Quality Recyclables

Leaf & Yard                                                                Organics (institutional)

Organics (institutional)                                               Refuse (w/WTE)

Refuse (w/WTE)


Facilities                                                            Facilities

MRFs:                                                                MRFs

    SI, Bx, Man, NQns, SEQns, NW Bkn                 SI, Bx, Man, NQns, SEQns, NW Bkn

Leaf & Yard Composting                                   In-Vessel Composting

    Fresh Kills, Edgemere                                       Bx, Jam Bay, SI

In-Vessel Composting                                        Waste-To-Energy

    Wards Is, SE Bkn                                               SW Bkn, Greenpt, BNY, SI

Waste-to-energy                                                 Landfill / Ashfill:  Fresh kills

    Betts Av, SW Bkn,Greenpt, BNY,

    Bx, SI

Landfill / ashfill:  Fresh Kills