Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) prepared a study for the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association on the economic impact of the municipal waste collection, transportation, recycling, and disposal industry in Pennsylvania. This is the third such study the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA) has commissioned. Each study, including this one—which encompasses an economically challenging time period in our nation’s economic history—validates the growth and the value and importance of the industry’s contribution to the Pennsylvania economy.
PWIA specifically represents the private-sector members of the industry and is the Pennsylvania state chapter of the National Waste & Recycling Association. The numbers in this study were determined using accepted economic methodology, based on official state and national data and information collected in a survey of Pennsylvania landfill operators, haulers, and recyclers. Most people put out their trash and recycling bins and think no more about them once they’ve been emptied. Most neither understand nor appreciate the magnitude of what lies behind this seemingly simple service. The traditional handling of solid waste and the rapidly-growing commitment to recycling (Pennsylvania’s statewide recovery rate of recyclables from the waste stream is 35 percent) combine as complementary elements that serve and benefit all Pennsylvanians. Among the report’s key findings:
The municipal waste industry collects, hauls, and disposes of 8.6 million tons of Pennsylvania municipal solid waste annually. Overall, it operates 45 municipal waste landfills, five construction demolition landfills, three residual waste landfills, and six resource recovery facilities, all dealing with non-hazardous materials.
The industry also serves as the “front end” of recycling in Pennsylvania— collecting, hauling, separating, and processing to varying degrees the recyclables that become the feedstock for re-use and re-manufacture into new products. Recycling is the fastest-growing component of the waste industry. The amount of materials recycled in Pennsylvania grew from 4.8 million tons in 2006 to 5.85 million tons in 2011, an increase of 20 percent. The municipal waste industry has invested heavily in single-stream processing technology that makes recycling more attractive and effective. About 30 percent of Pennsylvania’s recycled commodities are exported, bringing new money into the state economy.
The municipal waste industry also is a leader in developing and delivering “green energy” from landfill gas, helping to make Pennsylvania the No. 2 state in the nation for operational landfill gas-to-energy projects.
About half of the industry’s $4.2 billion statewide annual economic contribution is in the form of direct annual operating expenditures and employment within the municipal waste industry—roughly $2.3 billion. (The industry directly provides jobs to about 12,000 people at an average wage of $55,000 per year.) The other half of the economic contribution occurs in the form of indirect and induced impacts—ripple economic activity and employment “across a multitude of industries” that do business with and provide services to the municipal waste industry.
In addition, the municipal waste industry annually generates about $250 million in various taxes and fees to state and local governments, including about $80 million a year in state disposal, recycling, and environmental fees and about $60 million a year in payments to municipalities that host disposal facilities.
And in just the period of 2010 to 2012, the municipal waste industry invested $400 million in capital improvements. Through collection, recycling, and disposal, the municipal waste industry is a positive contributor to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to local communities. It represents a considerable array of job opportunities for local residents and contract opportunities for local vendors. It is a major source of tax and fee revenue to state and local governments. And the innovations that have come from the private sector of this industry have helped establish Pennsylvania as a national leader in environmental safety, recycling growth, and the production of green energy.
The bottom-line conclusion of research is that the municipal waste industry in Pennsylvania produces a total economic impact of more than $4.2 billion a year and supports more than 26,000 jobs.