Since the early 1990s, local governments have sought methods to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. One of these options is recycling, or the process by which materials that have served their intended use are collected, separated, or processed and returned to use in the form of raw materials in the production of new products. Entities that consider recycling programs as a major means of waste reduction also need to keep in mind the feasibility of such a program. Some communities get into recycling thinking that they will recover their costs of transportation, collection and sorting. The reality is that, at best, recycling is a break-even operation; most often it will cost the community either in the citizens’ time or in an operating budget. The real value in recycling is in cost avoidance of landfilling materials that have secondary use.
Many citizens and community leaders promote recycling as an environmentally responsible practice that conserves resources and reduces pollution. To maximize these benefits, a recycling program must operate efficiently so that more resources are saved than consumed in the process. A basic cost/benefit analysis can help decision-makers find the best waste reduction strategies for their communities.
When considering the materials to collect, looking beyond the highest value to the highest volume is sometimes recommended. For instance, the market price for aluminum cans is much higher on a per-ton basis than the price of paper. However, the volumes collected and the savings in transportation and disposal costs might make paper recycling a more economical proposition. The cost/benefits of recycling become much clearer when volume-based, or “pay-as-you-throw” fees are assessed for solid waste disposal. Additionally, any time local businesses and local government work together, the tax base is strengthened.
Recycling costs include collection, transportation, and processing of materials for market. Recycling also generates revenue from material sales; but for many communities, businesses, and institutions, the highest value of recycling is in the avoided costs of solid waste collection and disposal. One way to assess the feasibility of a recycling program is by comparing the per-ton cost of recycling with that of solid waste collection and disposal. When budgets, service contracts, and solid waste collection operations are restructured to take full advantage of the savings that recycling offers, it may be possible to reduce overall costs by integrating recycling into a solid waste services program.
Depending on your location, any number of materials may be recycled. The rules governing recycling are located in Title 30 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 328, Subchapter A. Recycling facilities owned or operated by local governments are extended certain exemptions from the recordkeeping requirements (30 TAC