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It reached something of a peak in 1991 when 170 incinerators operated nationally, but then the number of incinerators in operation began gradually to decline. In 2001, incineration accounted for only 7% of total household solid waste. Incineration was once considered a dual solution to the solid waste and energy crises, but that assessment changed with some complicated technological considerations. Fixed costs are high, and so average costs can be reduced by greater garbage throughput. Yet incinerators could not lower their tipping fees to levels necessary to attract more business without incurring financial losses.

Thus, external damages are falling. The increased use of recycling in the early 1990’s further reduced the quantity of garbage available to incinerators, adding to their financial problems. Then the public began to oppose the resulting air pollution emitted by incinerators, and policymakers are no longer eager to rescue the industry. The choice of method depends on land scarcity. , incineration accounts for 36% of waste. Incineration is also popular in Japan and several European countries where population densities and land values are high.

The information in this section is taken primarily from successive issues of Biocycle Magazine, which in 1989 began annual surveys of the 50 states (Glenn 1998, Biocycle 2001). Also, see Kinnaman and Fullerton (2000b). 40 This dramatic increase in the recycling rate can be attributed to a number of possible interrelated factors. First, the number of curbside recycling collection programs increased monotonically from just 1,000 programs in 1989 to over 9,700 programs in 2000. This trend clearly facilitates household recycling, but then the question is what has induced cities to provide this curbside recycling collection.

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