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A Project of

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Packaging, Recycling, and Solid Waste

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Abstract:

Solid waste management practices in the United States underwent a sea change in the early 1990s. Federal, state, and local rules now prescribe a host of collection and disposal practices; and the waste industry now offers a variety of integrated collection and disposal services, including recycling, composting, and special waste handling. Our analysis shows that, under best-case conditions, there are net benefits to society at low or modest levels of recycled content for almost all materials. However, as content rises and conditions become less favorable, costs rise, creating net societal losses. The wide variation in outcomes reflects the large variations in waste-disposal costs across locations and by program design, as well as the large variations in material-specific production processes.