GAIA Zero Waste MasterPlan - Page 23

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) 23
Determining the local market value for discarded commodities
may also be a part of an economic analysis. Discarded
materials are valuable resources that should be kept in the
economic mainstream. Understanding the value of these
materials and their potential for creating economic value and
good green jobs is important in justifying investments in new
or expanded policies, programs and infrastructure.

Capital costs (of materials and equipment)

Collection and processing costs (if applicable)

Potential cost savings from reduced
landfilling and incineration
About five percent of materials buried in landfills
or incinerators are reusable items (household
goods, equipment, building materials, furniture).
However, these materials have the most
value compared to recyclable or compostable
materials. Urban Ore, a reuse operation in
Berkeley, California, keeps 7,000 to 8,000
tons out of the landfill annually and generates
approximately $3 million per year in revenue.
Using the Urban Ore example, reusable items have
an average value of $400 per ton.
Every ton that can be reduced rather than
discarded also saves time, energy, and resources.
Mining, farming, manufacturing, warehousing,
transportation and distribution of products are
the “upstream” costs. Collection, processing,
re-manufacturing or destructive disposals
are the “downstream” costs. The Institute for
Local Self-Reliance[5] estimates that for every
ton of discarded material “downstream,” there
are 71 tons of discarded materials generated
“upstream.” This is why prevention, or source
reduction, has the greatest potential to save
resources and money.
5 Institute for Local Self Reliance. (2002). Recycling
Means Business.
Recyclable materials are worldwide commodities
bought and sold like any other commodity. The
value fluctuates based on the quality of the
material and market demand. Preserving the
value through source separation (i.e., keeping the
materials clean and dry) is particularly important
for zero waste communities. Some, such as
Milpitas and Windsor in California, have switched
from single stream (commingled recycling)
back to dual stream (separate collection for
containers and paper) to preserve value. Mission-


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