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Understanding the Economics of Waste: Drivers, Policies, and External Costs


  • Kinnaman, Thomas C.


This survey reviews the economics literature on solid waste published since 2000. This survey also summarizes the results of the lifecycle literature estimating the magnitudes of the external marginal cost of waste disposal and the external marginal benefit associated with recycling. The external marginal cost of landfill disposal is found to be rather small. The external marginal benefit of recycling certain materials is found to be comparatively large. If these estimates are true, then conditions at solid waste landfills and incinerators may no longer be the driving source of market failure in the industry. Instead the sizable external benefits associated with recycling some materials may explain the need for policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Kinnaman, Thomas C., 2016. "Understanding the Economics of Waste: Drivers, Policies, and External Costs," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 8(3-4), pages 281-320, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:now:jirere:101.00000071

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    1. repec:eee:jeeman:v:89:y:2018:i:c:p:168-186 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Solid waste; Recycling; External costs; External benefits;

    JEL classification:

    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling


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