Data Summary of Municipal Solid Waste Management Alternatives. Volume 1: Report Text Page: 43 of 216
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Cost Data for the Major Waste Management Options
Figures ES.5 through ES.9 show published estimates of the capital costs for the five most
common MSW management options. (Costs of operating trucks for curbside collection are not
included.) The costs reported in the literature are often incomplete, and published sources often
do not fully report on which costs are included and which are excluded. Furthermore, the
estimates from different sources are based on a wide variety of assumptions; thus, even estimates
for the same technology may not be fully comparable. The inadequacies and inconsistencies in
the cost data found in the literature make it imprudent to rely on the estimates in Figures ES.5
through ES.9 for detailed comparisons of the costs of the various options, for the reasons
outlined under "Missing Data." Until cost estimates for waste management options are built
from system components using consistent assumptions, the safest way to compare costs is to rely
on site-specific quotations from contractors.
MISSING DATA AND RESEARCH NEEDS
The data gathered for this study vary significantly in quality and consistency. On some
topics, no data at all are available. The effects of the limitations on the results of the analysis
varied from trivial to major. The 20-year time period chosen for the life-cycle analysis of energy
and emissions severely strained the limits of knowledge about many of the options. In addition,
the review of the data often indicated the need for research to help to eliminate barriers to the
more widespread adoption of certain options. This subsection provides a broad overview of
important data gaps and potential research needs.
Cost data in the literature are limited, and the range of capital and operating cost estimates is
broad. The capital cost variations reflect inconsistencies in the sources of the estimates rather
than predictable variations based on the type of technology or the size of the facility. Some
sources fail to report the assumptions on which published cost data are based, and even if the as-
sumptions are known, the bases may be so different that the results are not actually comparable.
For example, the year when a facility was built strongly affects the interest rate paid for the
capital, as well as the regulations that apply at the time of construction. Whether a project is
privately or publicly funded also affects the interest rates on the capital costs. Location-specific
differences, including those in the costs of associated activities such as road improvement, will
also affect the comparability of the data. Most of the technologies are typically financed through
public bonds in some form, and prospectuses are available for those projects. Even these
disclosures may not define or cover all the costs of the facility, however. Some bond issues
include costs unrelated to project costs. Operating costs are also affected by local differences in
factors such as labor rates, labor contracts, safety rules, and crew sizes that are rarely reported in
the open literature. Accounting systems, especially those used by cities and private owners and
operators of landfills, vary widely. Cost data on separation/recycling and composting are scarce.
To facilitate comparisons of the various strategies for managing MSW, costs for all the systems
could be built up from system components using a consistent set of assumptions.
The most extensive data are available on the combustion options. Because combustion is a
controlled process that is completed within a short period of time, inputs and outputs, especially
of energy, can be measured effectively.
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SRI International. Data Summary of Municipal Solid Waste Management Alternatives. Volume 1: Report Text, report, October 1992; Golden, Colorado. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1310776/m1/43/: accessed May 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.