Financial analytical models of waste management systems have often found that recycling costs exceed direct benefits, and in order to economically justify recycling activities, externalities such as household expenses or environmental impacts must be invoked. Certain more empirically based studies have also found that recycling is more expensive than disposal. Other work, both through models and surveys, have found differently. Here we present an empirical systems model, largely drawn from a suburban Long Island municipality. The model accounts for changes in distribution of effort as recycling tonnages displace disposal tonnages, and the seven different cases examined all show that curbside collection programs that manage up to between 31% and 37% of the waste stream should result in overall system savings. These savings accrue partially because of assumed cost differences in tip fees for recyclables and disposed wastes, and also because recycling can result in a more efficient, cost-effective collection program. These results imply that increases in recycling are justifiable due to cost-savings alone, not on more difficult to measure factors that may not impact program budgets.
Tonjes, David J. and Mallikarjun, Sreekanth, "COST EFFECTIVENESS OF RECYCLING: A SYSTEMS MODEL" (2013). Technology & Society Faculty Publications. 1.