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About 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is just 33%. (Environmental Protection Agency)

More than ½ million trees are saved each year by recycling paper in Boulder County. (Eco-Cycle)

By recycling more than 57,000 tons of steel cans, we reduce greenhouse gasses equivalent to taking more than 21,000 cars off the road each year. (WM)

Recycling glass instead of making it from silica sand reduces mining waste by 70%, water use by 50%, and air pollution by 20%. (Environmental Defense Fund)

If we recycled all of the newspapers printed in the U.S. on a typical Sunday, we would save 550,000 trees—or about 26 million trees per year. (California Department of Conservation)

The energy saved each year by steel recycling is equal to the electrical power used by 18 million homes each year—or enough energy to last Los Angeles residents for eight years. (Steel Recycling Institute)

The total volume of solid waste produced in the U.S. each year is equal to the weight of more than 5,600 Nimitz Class air craft carriers, 247,000 space shuttles, or 2.3 million Boeing 747 jumbo jets. (Beck)

An average kitchen-size bag of trash contains enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 24 hours. (Covanta)

The solid waste industry currently produces more than half of America's renewable energy, more than combined energy outputs of the solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and wind power industries. (U.S. DOE, Energy Information Administration)

Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil (enough to run the average car for 1,260 miles), 4,100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for 6 months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space, and 60 pounds of air pollution. (Trash to Cash)

Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to operate a TV for 3 hours. (Eco-Cycle)

Glass can be recycled an indefinite number of times and never wears out. (National Recycling Coalition)

Making glass from recycled material cuts related water pollution by 50%. (National Recycling Coalition)

If we put all of the solid waste collected in the U.S. in a line of average garbage trucks, that line of trucks could cross the country, extending from New York City to Los Angeles, more than 100 times. (Beck)

Five PET bottles (plastic soda bottles) yield enough fiber for one extra large T-shirt, one square food of carpet or enough fiber fill to fill one ski jacket. (National Recycling Coalition)

The average person has the opportunity to recycle more than 25,000 cans in a lifetime. (National Recycling Coalition)

Americans throw away enough office paper each year to build a 12-foot-high wall of paper from New York to Seattle. (National Recycling Coalition)

The average American discards seven and a half pounds of garbage every day. (National Recycling Coalition)

Once an aluminum can is recycled, it's back on the grocery shelf as another aluminum can in 60 days. (

Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet. (

Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can's volume of gasoline. (

Enough aluminum cans were recycled last year to fill a hollow Empire State Building 24 times. (

The 62.6 billion cans recycled last year alone would make 171 circles around the earth at its equator. (

Some 119,482 cans are recycled every minute nationwide. (

More garbage facts

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Facts of Commercial Waste Franchise

On behalf of the NW&RA and its member companies, who represent approximately 85 percent of the solid waste management industry in the region, the following is background information for municipalities regarding the impacts a commercial waste franchise will have on local businesses.

Claims of commercial costs savings are unfounded

The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) and the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) has repeatedly stated that results from their surveys demonstrate municipalities with a commercial waste and recycling franchises report an average of 90 percent of businesses see reduced costs.  It is NW&RA’s position that the survey results are based on a very small percentage of respondents and rely on significant assumptions.

The NW&RA has requested the results of such surveys from the two solid waste agencies, but the data has never been released.  As the Executive Director of SWALCO stated several times, data points presented as the average cost for service in some cases were based on only one response.  Obviously cost averages can not be based upon the answer of one business.

Getting accurate data on survey responses has proven difficult if not impossible.  As the Executive Director of the Illinois chapter of the NW&RA, I can tell you with confidence that collecting reliable data regarding which businesses have experienced costs increases or reductions in municipalities that have implemented commercial waste and recycling franchises is extremely hard to gather.

The reason for why there is a lack of the data regarding individual customer pricing is clear, the data is proprietary and until representative data is collected in a manner that meets commonly accepted statistical methods, the immediate cost savings or price increases of a commercial waste and recycling franchise will not be known.

What the NW&RA does know is that when a franchise is enacted, the company implementing the franchise receives customer complaints from business owners experiencing cost increases.  In many cases, the franchise agreement includes a provision that the franchise hauler is required to grandfather rates that are lower than the franchised rates. The grandfather period is usually one year. However, when the initial year has passed, customers who were grandfathered with lower rates have experienced cost increases in an effort to get their pricing in line with the cost matrix created by the franchise. 

One size pricing does not work for commercial customers

It is important to understand there are a number of factors used to determine the price for waste collection and recycling for a commercial account.  One of the most significant factors considered when determining price of commercial waste collection is understanding the difference between weight and volume.  Weight is one of the largest factors used when determining the price for waste removal, not volume.

Although two businesses may be located next to one another and have the same size waste container, their waste disposal costs may be significantly different as a result of the type of waste they are generating.

  • An example of why this difference in pricing for the same size container exists is clear considering the following scenario -- a 2-yard container at an automotive repair facility may contain 1 ton of waste when full due to the heavy weight of the waste generated in auto repair.  While the same size 2-yard container at a flower shop or office supply store may contain 300 pounds of waste when full.  Although the containers are the same size and they are filling the same volume in a 2-yard container, the weight of the waste generated by the automotive repair facility is much greater and as a result the cost to dispose of the waste is greater.  This also explains the price discrepancy among commercial customers who appear to be getting the same service but in reality may have very different collection needs.
  • It is the difference between weight and volume that once again explains the difference in cost between waste that is compacted and waste that is not.  If you fill a 2-yard container with generic debris that is not compacted, the weight of the filled container may be 400 pounds.  The same debris compacted into the size of a 2-yard bale may weigh up to 1 ton.  Once again, although the waste may be taking up the same volume, their weight is significantly different and as a result the heavier load will cost more to dispose.

Commercial waste and recycling franchises are very different from residential contracts

It is important to understand there are significant differences between the proposed commercial waste and recycling franchise and a municipal residential waste hauling contract.

  • Residential waste pick-up involves a consistent waste stream that does not require customized collection requirements.  When pricing a residential contract, waste haulers know there will be a consistent type of waste and the average amount of waste a typical home will generate on a weekly basis.
  • Commercial waste collection has numerous variables that make a one size fits all service structure difficult if not impossible to implement.
    • Waste and recycling collection for businesses in Yorkville differs greatly among businesses.  Restaurants, gas stations, book stores, hotels and office buildings to name just a few types of businesses in the city all have significantly different waste collection needs.  Such differences include:
              • A restaurant may require daily pick-ups early in the morning
              • Office buildings may require a customized recycling program
              • Gas stations may have hazardous specialty waste needs

              Commercial waste and recycling franchises are NOT a growing trend

              Over the past year, numerous municipalities have examined commercial waste franchises and most have elected not to move forward.  Many municipalities initially examine waste franchises to pursue financial incentives or to address perceived service concerns.  In most cases, after careful examination of the proposal and identification of the negative impacts a waste franchise may have upon businesses, the proposals are tabled or eliminated from consideration.

              Municipalities who considered commercial waste and recycling franchises in the past year that are no longer considering implementing the proposals include:

          • City of Naperville
          • City of Chicago
          • City of Park Ridge
          • Village of Morton Grove
          • Village of Oak Park
          • Village of Lincolnshire

          Two communities who recently enacted commercial waste and recycling franchises:

        • City of Highland Park
        • Village of Wilmette

        Commercial waste franchises do not increase recycling participation

        Commercial waste franchise proponents claim an increase in recycling participation will result from a no-fee recycling collection program offered in conjunction with the waste franchise. “Free” recycling is not free. It is actually a bundled collection price that includes the cost of a free cart and service.

      However, the largest barrier to commercial recycling is not availability or cost but difficulties in separately handling refuse and recyclable materials at a location. A franchise proposal does nothing to address this fundamental challenge. In fact, recycling programs will be limited by the franchise proposal because businesses will not be able to customize their recycling, many of which already exceed the municipality’s proposed goals.

Commercial waste and recycling franchise do not reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Two of the largest expenses for waste haulers are fuel and labor. In order to be competitive, waste haulers schedule their pickups in the most cost-effective ways possible to minimize fuel usage and time spent on municipal streets. Pick-ups are scheduled to maximize logistical and environmental efficiencies and provide the best service for local businesses. While refuse and recycling collection trucks account for less than 1/10 of 1% of greenhouse gas emissions, waste haulers continue to make their fleets more environmentally conscious with anti-idling mechanisms and hydraulic pump systems that reduce diesel engine noise and improve fuel economy. In addition, waste collection vehicles account for less than 1 percent of vehicle traffic.  Consequently, any change in waste vehicles on the road is negligible.  

Confusion over Senate Bill 3692

The State Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 3692 to amend provisions found in the Municipal Code governing commercial waste hauling franchises. Contrary to much speculation amongst municipal leaders, SB 3692 does not eliminate a municipality’s ability to enact a commercial waste and recycling franchise. What the new law sets forth is a set of requirements before a municipality awards a commercial waste franchise. These include guideline for issuing a request for proposal and allowing adequate public debate before and after the RFP process. It also clarifies the issue of franchise fees, taxes, and charges imposed in connection with defraying the costs of administering the franchise program.

The NW&RA believes that SB 3692 is good public policy because it sets a process to provide businesses, residents and waste service providers the opportunity to discuss and comment on the wisdom of franchising commercial waste services.

NW&RA officially opposes commercial waste franchises

At the end of the day, the companies the NW&RA represents are all customer service businesses.  NW&RA member companies are comprised of large national corporations to small family owned businesses that all have one factor in common: they pride themselves on the exceptional customer service they provide their customers.

The waste haulers know through years of experience that commercial waste and recycling franchises are not a good for their customers in the long run.  Commercial waste franchises stifle competition, resulting in increased prices.  Regardless what industry you look at, open market competition is what drives excellence, innovation and competitive pricing.

The NW&RA is ready to work with municipalities to maintain an open market

The NW&RA is ready and willing to assist municipalities and answer questions regarding commercial waste and recycling franchises.  Commercial waste and recycling franchises are a complex issue and can raise more questions than answers when examined.