Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Asplin, Andrew. Wasted Intuitions: New York City’s Solid Waste Management System and the Ambiguous Effects of Traditional Collective Good Provision Analysis. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. March 2022.


Copyright Andrew Asplin 2022.


Refuse Collection services' status as a public good has been highly contested. As it is both rivalrous and excludable, basic theory predicts that private provision of solid waste management services will be more efficient. Private trash carters are able to specialize in a way that municipality-run services simply cannot. New York City is unique in that its solid waste management system is rigidly split: residential trash is managed by the city; commercial trash is managed by private businesses. This thesis explores how New York City's public and private solid waste management systems complicate these initial intuitions through a welfare analysis. Price, wage, and operating efficiency are used to measure consumer, employee, and employer welfare respectively. New York City’s private refuse collection industry is characterized by weak unions, systemic bloat, and poor safety standards. Furthermore, they offer higher prices, lower wages, and are less efficient in comparison to their public counterpart. The city hopes to assuage some of these problems by creating Commercial Waste Zones.