Tipping through Time

In 1982, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Washington, D.C., began collecting tipping (disposal) fee data for landfills and incinerators and continued this process until 1995. NSWMA data were collected by contacting individual facilities. Then in 1992, Chartwell Information Publishers, San Diego, began collecting similar data, which the NSWMA uses today.

The following tipping fee data are from approximately 630 privately owned or operated facilities and represent the “spot market” price for municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal. Other tipping fees exist at MSW landfills (e.g., waste accepted under a long-term contract, special wastes), and these fees may be higher or lower than the spot market price.

The number of surveyed landfills has changed dramatically since 1982, when less than 65 landfills were surveyed. Compared to today, this is an 870 percent increase in the number of facilities represented. Therefore, comparisons and conclusions between older and newer data may not accurately reflect actual conditions. In 1995's survey, historical national-average tipping fees were recalculated based on weighted averages for the number of facilities represented in each region. Additionally, tipping fees prior to 1985 were not included in the regional data because the data could not be normalized.

The landfill tipping fees chart provides data on national and regional tipping fees since 1985, while showing the change in national tipping fees over time. The average national tipping fee in 2002 was $33.70 per ton, an increase of almost 5 percent from the 2000 survey. This continues the trend of year-to-year tip fees increases. The exception was in 1998, when there was a 1 percent decrease in national tipping fees. This marked the first decline since the NSWMA began tracking tipping fees in 1982. Overall, the national average for tipping fees has remained relatively constant since 1995.

Prior to 1998, tipping fees increased approximately 7 percent per year. From 1985 to 1998, the difference in the national tipping fee was $23.61 per ton, an increase of almost 300 percent. The largest annual increase occurred between 1986 and 1987, when tipping fees increased $5.19 per ton. The smallest year-to-year increases occurred between 1998 and 2000, when the tipping fee increased only $0.19 per ton per year.

As with the national tipping fees, four of the seven regional tipping fees showed an increase in 2002. The largest increase was in the West, where the tipping fee increased $4.36 per ton or almost 13 percent. This was followed by the South Central region, which saw a $1.38 or 6 percent increase; Midwest with a $1.28 or 4 percent increase; and finally the West Central region with a $1.11 or 5 percent increase. During this period, the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and South showed declines of less than $1 per ton. As in 2000 and since 1987, the Northeast has had the highest average tipping fees at $69.07 per ton, while the South Central region has the lowest average tipping fees at $23.28 per ton.

Ed Repa is the director of environmental programs for NSWMA. E-mail the author at: erepa@envasns.org.


Region 2002 2000 1998 1995 1992 1990 1988 1987 1986 1985
Northeast 69.07 69.84 66.68 73.17 65.83 64.76 61.11 52.41 17.11 12.66
Mid-Atlantic 45.26 45.84 44.11 45.68 47.94 40.75 33.84 26.32 22.08 16.99
South 30.43 30.53 30.89 28.50 22.48 16.92 16.46 13.13 5.76 3.24
Midwest 34.14 32.85 30.64 31.15 27.10 23.15 17.70 16.42 11.75 7.23
South Central 23.28 21.90 21.02 20.30 12.53 12.05 11.28 10.17 7.61 7.24
West Central 23.40 22.29 22.51 23.29 12.62 11.06 8.50 7.23 6.21 5.36
West 38.90 34.54 36.08 37.69 27.92 25.63 19.45 13.92 11.10 10.96
National 33.70 32.19 31.81 32.19 26.32 23.01 19.12 16.11 10.92 8.20
Regions: Northeast: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT Mid-Atlantic: DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA, WV South: AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN Midwest: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, OH, WI South Central: AR, AZ, LA, NM, OK, TX West Central: CO, KS, MT, ND, NE, SD, UT, WY West: AK, CA, HI, ID, NV, OR, WA