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