EREF releases analysis on national landfill tipping fees
Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill tipping fees in the U.S. continue to rise, with fees increasing from 2018 to 2019 by $2.74—a 5.2 percent increase, according to new research from the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF).
The EREF Data & Policy Program’s recently released 2019 Landfill Tip Fee Data report found the national average MSW tip fee is now $55.36 per ton.
EREF says it maintains a database of MSW landfills across the U.S. from which it draws samples for analysis of tipping fees. For its most recent report, the organization says it contacted landfill owners and asked them to provide gate rate information for MSW disposal, supplemented by current website information on fees.
The report is a culmination of data obtained from 392 landfills categorized as large, medium or small based on accepted tonnage. Of the landfills providing information, approximately:
- 15 percent were large, accepting more than 390,000 tons per year.
- 44 percent were medium, accepting between 65,000 and 390,000 tons per year.
- 41 percent were small, accepting less than 65,000 tons per year.
The small landfills reported accepting an average of 26,150 tons per year, while medium landfills and large landfills accepted 163,010 tons per year and 831,480 tons per year, respectively.
The overall national average tip fee increased from $52.62 per ton in 2018 to $55.36 per ton in 2019. EREF also compiled data by geographic region and found the Pacific region of the U.S. has the highest tipping fee in the nation at an average of $73.03 per ton. This rose by $4.57 per ton compared with 2018 rates.
The South Central region has the lowest tipping fee at an average of $40.92 per ton, which is $6.12 higher than in 2018.
The Mountains/Plains region of the U.S. saw the largest annual increase in its tipping fees, rising $7.14, or 16.4 percent, from 2018 to an average of $50.71 this year.
Compared with 2018, average regional tip fees increased in all regions except for the Northeast, where tip fees decreased by 1.3 percent (-$0.86), in part due to the closure of landfills that previously had high tip fees due to limited remaining capacity, EREF says.
Four-year trends in average tip fees show a continued increase in the national average MSW tip fee with an average year-over-year increase of 3.5 percent from 2016 through 2018. Tip fees in the Northeast and Pacific remain notably higher than the rest of the U.S., with the Pacific region having the highest tip fees for the second year in a row. The Mountains/Plains region surpassed the Midwest for the third highest regional tip fees in 2019. The Southeast and South Central continued to be the least expensive regions for MSW landfill disposal.
On a state-basis, MSW landfill tipping fees vary substantially. Average state tipping fees range from $29.82 (Kentucky, Southeast region) to $154.92 (Alaska, Pacific region) per ton of MSW. A tip fee is not provided for Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, as facilities or tip fees for MSW could not be identified.
States with active MSW waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities continue to have higher tipping fees than those without, EREF says. The average MSW landfill tip fee was $59.93 per ton for states with WTE in 2019. In states without WTE, the average MSW tip fee was $53.58 per ton.
For 2019, the difference was less pronounced than in years past due to large tip fee increases in many states without active WTE facilities. Nationally, landfilling was 12 percent more expensive in WTE states, equivalent to $6.34 per ton higher. Comparatively, in 2018, tip fees in states with WTE were 28 percent higher (+$13.89 per ton) than states without WTE. The relationship between WTE use and landfill tip fee suggests that MSW landfill fees continue to indicate, in part, if market conditions are suitable for the use of WTE for MSW management, EREF concludes.
EREF’s national average tip fees are calculated as an average of all observations. However, because the amount of MSW landfilled in each state varies due to factors such as total waste generation, fractional recovery for recycling and/or composting and interstate transport, EREF calculated a weighted average national tip fee for 2019 based on the relative amount of MSW disposed of via landfilling in each state and the average tip fee for each state.
Results indicated a tonnage-weighted average tip fee of $52.08 for 2019, which is $3.27 less than the unweighted national average. EREF says this difference suggests MSW may be disproportionately sent to landfills in states with lower tip fees--a practice which is recognized through interstate hauling of landfilled MSW. EREF says it also observed this trend in the 2018 data, where the tonnage weighted average national tip fee was $50.08, or $2.54 less than the unweighted national average of $52.62 per ton. Year-to-year change for each of the calculated averages was roughly 4 percent, suggesting that while interstate transport may allow for lower tip fees to be paid, it does not insulate against the overall national trend of increasing MSW tip fees, EREF says.
In addition to collecting MSW tip fee data, EREF also gathered tip fee information for construction and demolition (C&D) wastes deposited in MSW landfills. Of the special wastes accepted at MSW landfills in the U.S., EREF says C&D wastes are most common: C&D waste is accepted at MSW landfills in 41 states and comprises roughly 12 percent of the landfilled stream on average.
Of the 392 landfills providing MSW tip fee data, 241 also had a posted gate rate for C&D materials disposed of at the landfill. The national average tip fee for C&D waste in 2019 was not statistically different from the MSW tip fee at $54.04 per ton for C&D compared with $55.36 for MSW. Although over half of landfills (57 percent) set the same tip fee for MSW and C&D materials, this pricing strategy was not uniform. C&D tip fees were priced lower than MSW at 27 percent of sites. At the remaining 16 percent of MSW landfills, the cost to dispose of a ton of C&D material was higher than for MSW.