Ken Acks to Speak on "Costs and Benefits of Recycling in New York City" at 2016 Annual Conference of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis in Washington DC

February 7, 2016


Kenneth Acks, CEO of the Cost-Benefit Group, LLC will present a paper on "The Costs and Benefits of Recycling in New York City" at the Eighth Annual Conference and Meeting of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis.

The conference, entitled "Improving the Theory and Practice of Benefit-Cost Analysis" will be held at the The Marvin Center at the George Washington University; 800 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20052 from Friday March 16th through March 18th, 2016.

The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) is an international group of practitioners, academics and others who are working to improve the theory and application of the tools of benefit-cost analysis. The conference features experts from around the world including Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D) of North Dakota and Senator James Lankford (R) of Oklahomand; and researchers from Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and Columbia Universities; the University of Chicago and University of California Berkeley; the US Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture and International Trade Commission; Resources for the Future; and from Austria, Canada, Croatia, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden.

Registration and general conference information is available at The full agenda is available at

Ken Acks will present the paper on Friday March 18, 2016 from 10:45 AM - 12:15 PM. The abstract follows:
On April 22, 2015 NYC Mayor de Blasio declared that by 2030 the city would no longer send any garbage to landfills. New York would join San Francisco, Seattle and other cities in moving toward a “zero waste” policy. 
On October 3, 2015 in “The Reign of Recycling” the fifth most emailed New York Times article over the past 30 days John Tierney, reprising a 1996 article, argues that recycling was, and is, wasteful when it comes to the bottom line, both economically and environmentally.
Tierney claims that despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it is still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclables have plummeted. The national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years. As cities move beyond recycling paper and metals, and into glass, food scraps and assorted plastics, the costs rise sharply while the environmental benefits decline and sometimes vanish. He claims that to offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip coach flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles without counting costs of rinsing. Washing plastic in water heated by coal-derived electricity resulting in a net increase in CO2. He also claims that all the trash generated by Americans for the next 1,000 years would fit on .1% of grazing land, and landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland, like the Freshkills Park on Staten Island. Landfill operators have captured methane for electricity. Modern water-to-electricity incinerators, release so few pollutants that they’ve been widely accepted in eco-conscious Europe and Japan.
This paper will utilize a variety of sources to estimate total costs of recycling and alternatives now and in 2030. Costs/Benefits include CO2, methane, air pollution, traffic congestion, water use, energy, transportation, land use, and materials.

Mr. Acks must be doing something right as this was the fifth time he was invited to make a presentation or chair a session at this prestigious annual conference. In the past Mr. Acks presented “A Dynamic Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of a Smart Growth/Sprawl Reduction Program in 1988, 2008 and 2013", “The Costs and Benefits of 1,000 Green Roofs in New York City” and “The Costs and Benefits of a Green Mixed-Use Brownfield Redevelopment Project in NY” at conferences of the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis from 2008 through 2014. He also chaired two sessions for the Society, and has given presentations on “The Social Cost of Carbon” before the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Environment Committee; “The Economic Impact of Environmental Liabilities on Real Estate Values” before The Auditing Roundtable; "A Framework for Analyzing the Costs and Benefits of Green Roofs: Second Stage Results” at a conference of the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE)2007 and “Environmental Values” at a Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs colloquium; and given guest lectures at Columbia University, Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College. The talks have drawn upon Mr. Acks' 35 years of expertise as a consultant in Environmental Economics and Real Estate Valuation during during which time he has produced studies of more than 950 projects worth over $4.5 billion in 140 counties and 28 states. Mr. Acks also edits Environmental Valuation and Cost-Benefit News

The panel (Session E6 on the Costs and Benefits of Social Investments" is Chaired by Lynn Karoly of the RAND Corporation. Other presentations are:
Reasonable Accommodation and Sheltered Workshops for People with Disabilities: Costs and Returns of Investments, by Gareth Harper,* Optimity Advisors; Rory Tierney; and Quentin Liger
Money Talks: Applying Cost-Benefit Analysis to Policies Combatting Intimate Partner Violence, Nicholas Mastron,* The George Washington University

Can the Ticket to Work Program Be Self-Financing? Craig Thornton,* Mathematica Policy Research