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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.

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Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2003.46.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2003.46
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  1. World Bank, 2002. "World Development Indicators 2002," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 13921.
  2. Vollebergh, Herman, 1997. "Environmental externalities and social optimality in biomass markets: waste-to-energy in The Netherlands and biofuels in France," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 605-621, May.
  3. Keeler Andrew G. & Renkow Mitch, 1994. "Haul Trash or Haul Ash: Energy Recovery as a Component of Local Solid Waste Management," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 205-217, November.
  4. Miranda, Marie Lynn & Hale, Brack, 1997. "Waste not, want not: the private and social costs of waste-to-energy production," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 587-600, May.
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