Public anticipation that recycling would eventually solve the solid waste disposal problem, and simultaneously conserve natural resources, has persisted since enactment of the Resource Recovery Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-512). Progress toward these goals has fallen considerably behind initial expectations, however. Various explanations for the slow progress have been suggested, and federal research has focused mainly on the technological difficulties associated with resource recovery. In 1978 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contracted with Mathtech, Inc., a subsidiary of Mathematica, to study the impediments to recycling municipal solid waste. The eight facilities selected for indepth analysis represented a cross-section of technologies, ownership types, geographical locations, and recovered products. None of the facilities were economical in the context of providing the least cost mode of disposal, and all eight facilities experienced net operating losses. A major impediment encountered by most of the facilities was competition from lower-cost landfills.