MiBiz talked to several members of the WMSBF Waste Task Force this week in a story detailing how local waste volumes are a sign of economic recovery.
The increasing waste volumes at Kent County landfills serve as one measure of an improving local economy, said Doug Wood, director of the Kent County Department of Public Works (DPW). “In 2011, volumes really started to turn around, and every year after that waste goes up more,” Wood said. “If you take into consideration waste generation and recycling, I think we can definitely see growth in the economy.”
An MiBiz analysis shows that local waste volumes over about the last decade and a half generally track with other traditional economic indicators, such as commercial building permits and jobs numbers.
The reason behind that correlation is quite simple, said Paul Isely, chair of the economics department at the Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business in Grand Rapids. Long-term trend data show that economic growth leads to the generation of more commercial waste, he said.
“(Waste volumes) are not the best forecaster, but the data adds to many other pieces that are saying that things are good and getting better,” Isely said. “The indicator is useful in that it adds weight to that story.”
Tracking commercial waste volumes provides economists with a so-called “coincidence indicator” that shows where the economy is today but does not necessarily help them predict where it will be six months or a year from now, he said.