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Burn or Bury? A Social Cost Comparison of Final Waste Disposal Methods


  • Elbert Dijkgraaf

    (Erasmus University Rotterdam and OCFEB, Rotterdam)

  • Herman R.J. Vollebergh

    (Erasmus University Rotterdam and OCFEB, Rotterdam)


This paper uses private and environmental cost data for the Netherlands to evaluate the social cost of two final waste disposal methods, landfilling versus incineration using waste-to-energy (WTE) plants. The data only provide some support for the widespread policy preference for incineration over landfilling if the analysis is restricted to environmental costs alone. Private costs, however, are so much higher for incineration, that landfilling is the social cost minimizing option at the margin even in a densely populated country such as the Netherlands. Implications for waste policy are discussed as well. Proper treatment of and energy recovery from landfills seem to be the most important targets for waste policy. WTE plants are a very expensive way to save on climate change emissions.

Suggested Citation

  • Elbert Dijkgraaf & Herman R.J. Vollebergh, 2003. "Burn or Bury? A Social Cost Comparison of Final Waste Disposal Methods," Working Papers 2003.46, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2003.46

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mazzanti, Massimiliano & Montini, Anna & Nicolli, Francesco, 2010. "Waste Generation and Landfill Diversion Dynamics: Decentralised Management and Spatial Effects," Sustainable Development Papers 60660, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    2. Anna Alberini & Stefania Tonin & Margherita Turvani, 2009. "Rates of Time Preferences for Saving Lives in the Hazardous Waste Site Context," Working Papers 2009.3, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    3. Maarten A. Allers & Corine Hoeben, 2010. "Effects of Unit-Based Garbage Pricing: A Differences-in-Differences Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 45(3), pages 405-428, March.
    4. Erik O'Donovan & Micheál L. Collins, 2011. "An Economic Evaluation of Incineration as a Residual Municipal Solid Waste Management Option in Ireland," Trinity Economics Papers tep1811, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
    5. Massimiliano Mazzanti & Anna Montini & Francesco Nicolli, 2011. "Embedding landfill diversion in economic, geographical and policy settings," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(24), pages 3299-3311.
    6. Bonney, Maurice & Jaber, Mohamad Y., 2011. "Environmentally responsible inventory models: Non-classical models for a non-classical era," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(1), pages 43-53, September.
    7. Münster, Marie & Meibom, Peter, 2011. "Optimization of use of waste in the future energy system," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 1612-1622.
    8. Iafolla, Valentina & Mazzanti, Massimiliano & Nicolli, Francesco, 2010. "Are You SURE You Want to Waste Policy Chances? Waste Generation, Landfill Diversion and Environmental Policy Effectiveness in the EU15," Sustainable Development Papers 91010, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    9. Mazzanti, Massimiliano & Zoboli, Roberto, 2008. "Waste Generation, Incineration and Landfill Diversion. De-coupling Trends, Socio-Economic Drivers and Policy Effectiveness in the EU," Sustainability Indicators and Environmental Valuation Working Papers 46651, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    10. Mazzanti, Massimiliano & Montini, Anna & Nicolli, Francesco, 2008. "Embedding Landfill Diversion in Economic, Geographical and Policy Settings Panel based evidence from Italy," Sustainability Indicators and Environmental Valuation Working Papers 44221, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    11. Chokri Dridi & Naceur Khraief, 2011. "Mitigating Industrial Solid Waste in Tunisia: Landfill Use Vs. Recycling," Working Papers 590, Economic Research Forum, revised 06 Jan 2011.
    12. Valentina Iafolla & Massimiliano Mazzanti & Francesco Nicolli, 2010. "Rifiuti generati, rifiuti in discarica ed efficacia delle politiche ambientali in Europa," ECONOMICS AND POLICY OF ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 0(2), pages 103-135.
    13. Wagner, Jeffrey, 2011. "Incentivizing sustainable waste management," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 585-594, February.
    14. Holmgren, Kristina & Amiri, Shahnaz, 2007. "Internalising external costs of electricity and heat production in a municipal energy system," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 5242-5253, October.
    15. Micky A. Babalola, 2019. "A System Dynamics-Based Approach to Help Understand the Role of Food and Biodegradable Waste Management in Respect of Municipal Waste Management Systems," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(12), pages 1-20, June.
    16. Kinnaman, Thomas C. & Shinkuma, Takayoshi & Yamamoto, Masashi, 2014. "The socially optimal recycling rate: Evidence from Japan," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 54-70.
    17. Tatoutchoup, Francis Didier, 2016. "Optimal rate of paper recycling," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 264-269.
    18. Massimiliano Mazzanti & Roberto Zoboli, 2009. "Municipal Waste Kuznets Curves: Evidence on Socio-Economic Drivers and Policy Effectiveness from the EU," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 44(2), pages 203-230, October.
    19. Grant E. Donnelly & Cait Lamberton & Rebecca Walker Reczek & Michael I. Norton, 2017. "Social Recycling Transforms Unwanted Goods into Happiness," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(1), pages 48-63.
    20. Rob Aalbers & Herman Vollebergh, 2008. "An economic analysis of mixing wastes," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(3), pages 311-330, March.

    More about this item


    Waste policy; Project evaluation; Incineration; Landfilling; Climate change;

    JEL classification:

    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • L99 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Other
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources


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