Costs and benefits of pneumatic collection in three specific New York City cases

Benjamin Miller, Juliette Spertus, Camille Kamga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Truck-based collection of municipal solid waste imposes significant negative externalities on cities and constrains the efficiency of separate collection of recyclables and organics and of unit-price-based waste-reduction systems. In recent decades, hundreds of municipal-scale pneumatic collection systems have been installed in Europe and Asia. Relatively few prior studies have compared the economic or environmental impacts of these systems to those of truck collection. A critical factor to consider when making this comparison is the extent to which the findings reflect the specific geographic, demographic, and operational characteristics of the systems considered. This paper is based on three case studies that consider the specific characteristics of three locations, comparing pneumatic systems with conventional collection on the basis of actual waste tonnages, composition, sources, collection routes, truck trips, and facility locations. In one case, alternative upgrades to an existing pneumatic system are compared to a potential truck-collection operation. In the other cases, existing truck operations are compared to proposed pneumatic systems which, to reduce capital costs, would be installed without new trenching or tunneling through the use of existing linear infrastructure. For the two proposed retrofit pneumatic systems, up to 48,000 truck kilometers travelled would be avoided and energy use would be reduced by up to 60% at an incremental cost of up to $400,000 USD per year over the total operating-plus-capital cost of conventional collection. In the location where a greenfield pneumatic system is already in operation, truck collection would be both less expensive and more energy-efficient than pneumatic collection. The results demonstrate that local geographic, demographic, and operational conditions play a decisive role in determining whether pneumatic collection will reduce energy requirements, produce more or fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and cost more or less over the long-term. These findings point to the local factors that will determine the relative economic and environmental costs and benefits in specific situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1957-1966
Number of pages10
JournalWaste Management
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation . Neither NYSERDA nor NYSDOT has reviewed the information contained herein, and the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of NYSERDA, NYSDOT, or the State of New York.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Economic impacts
  • Energy use
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Pneumatic waste collection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal


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