Date of Award

Fall 2012

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John M Halstead


The sustained increase of municipal solid waste generation is an ongoing management and environmental challenge confronting many local governmental units in the United States. The management problems associated with municipal solid waste generation are attributed to rising levels of solid waste, and the real costs to collect, transport, and dispose solid waste is increasing. The increase in landfill disposal costs, referred to as "tipping-fees", is partially attributed to the regulatory and technological requirements of landfill operations designed to reduce pollution from landfills. In response to these challenges, municipal solid waste managers are evaluating the benefits and costs of alternative programs and pricing practices. The results of this dissertation contribute policy relevant information for the evaluation and consideration of designing economically efficient municipal solid waste collection and recycling services.

Essay 1 is an evaluation of the effect of municipal solid waste (MSW) user fees on household generation of solid waste. MSW user fees create a financial incentive for households to decrease their generation of solid waste destined for landfill disposal. Results from a cross-sectional study of 234 cities and towns in New Hampshire for the year 2008 suggest the implementation of user fees for household solid waste disposal results in an average reduction of 40% to 50% in the amount of municipal solid waste disposed.

The second essay presents findings from a contingent valuation study of two referendum proposals designed to estimate the determinants of household willingness to pay for 1) Implementing unit-based pricing of household trash disposal to generate revenues to support community recycling services and 2) Switching from their current recycling program which requires multiple sorting of recyclable materials, to a single-stream collection program which allows all recyclables to be placed into a single collection bin at the community's solid waste transfer station. Depending on model specification, the findings suggest on average households will pay from 37 to 42 cents per trash bag to support community recycling services. On average households convey a negative willingness to pay ranging from -86 to -96 cents per month to switch to single-stream recycling at their community's solid waste transfer facility.

The third essay extends the analysis to identify household preferences for selected attributes of municipal trash and recycling programs. Results suggest households value programs expected to increase the community recycling rate. Consistent with the findings of Essay 2, household choices indicate a loss of welfare associated with single-stream recycling relative to their current practice of sorting recyclables. The results of this study are useful for identifying the trash and recycling services valued by households. Household participation in community recycling programs is likely to increase when community recycling programs are designed to provide services valued by households.