Sustainable Funding Strategies For Local Government

Publish Date: 2010

The purpose of this research memorandum is to provide recycling program managers with up-to date technical and programmatic information regarding sustainable funding strategies for local government recycling programs.

The current economic downturn has significantly impacted the three major revenue streams commonly used to support these programs:

  • Revenues from the Sale of Recycled Materials • Revenues from the sale of recycled materials dropped precipitously in the fall of 2008. For example, prices for old corrugated cardboard dropped from $110 per ton in September 2008 to less than $25 per ton in December 2008. While recycled material prices have slowly risen over the past year and a half, they are not back to 2008 levels.
  • Disposal Revenues • An irony • as well as a systemic issue • associated with local government recycling programs is that they are often funded with landfill tipping fee revenues. Another impact of the current recession is that disposal tonnages and hence revenues have dropped significantly. Unlike recycled material prices, disposal tonnages and revenues have not shown signs of returning to pre-recession levels.
  • State Funding Programs • In states such as California and Florida, municipal recycling programs are subsidized by grants from state governments. The current recession has caused these funding sources to be reduced or even suspended as state governments struggle to balance their own budgets.

According to Andrew Clough, Deputy Director of Public Works for the city of Berkeley, California, "The whole business model for recycling and garbage has been to incentivize recycling... We're going to have to do a new business model."

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