The Cost of Municipal Solid Waste Regulation

This paper attempts to estimate the costs of federal regulation on the municipal solid waste (MSW) industry (since the inception of Subtitle D as amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments


The Regulation

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Subtitle D requirements (codified at 40 C.F.R. § 258) as directed by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984, which amended the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976.
  • EPA explicitly required municipal solid waste landfills (MSWLFs) to meet specific criteria in six different categories: location, operation, design, ground-water monitoring and corrective action, closure and post closure care, and lastly, financial assurance. These requirements fundamentally changed landfill operating practices, from opening to closure, and everything in between.

By the Numbers

  • In its Addendum to the original 1990 Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA), EPA estimated the benefits of Subtitle D regulation to be .011 cancer cases saved per year or $970,000 in reduced resource damage (over a 300-year modeling period).
  • EPA estimated the costs to be $19.23 million per year over the same 300-year modeling period.

Our Findings

  • We conservatively estimate that Subtitle D regulations have cost an average of $3.7 billion per year. Since 1986 (when tipping fees began to rise), Subtitle D has cost over $71 billion. Over the same time period, we as a society have saved an estimated .144 cancer cases or $16.2 million in reduced resource damage.