Waste Generation, Incineration and Landfill Diversion. De-coupling Trends, Socio-Economic Drivers and Policy Effectiveness in the EU
Waste generation and waste disposal are issues that are becoming increasingly prominent in the environmental arena both from a policy perspective and in the context of delinking analysis. Waste generation is still increasing proportionally with income, and economic and environmental costs associated to landfilling are also increasing. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of waste generation, incineration, recycling and landfill dynamics based on panel data for the EU25, to assess the effects of different drivers (economic, structural, policy) and the eventual differences between western and eastern EU countries. We show that for waste generation there is still no Waste Kuznets Curve (WKC) trend, although elasticity to income drivers appear lower than in the past. Landfill and other policy effects do not seem to provide backward incentives for waste prevention. Regarding landfill and incineration, the two trends, as expected, are respectively decreasing and increasing, with policy providing a strong driver. It demonstrates the effectiveness of policy even in this early stage of policy implementation. This is essential for an ex post evaluation of existing landfill and incineration directives. Eastern countries appear to perform generally quite well, thus benefiting from their EU membership and related policies in terms of environmental performances. We may conclude that although absolute delinking is far from being achieved for waste generation, there are first positive signals in favour of an increasing relative delinking for waste generation and average robust landfill diversion, and various evidence of a significant role of the EU waste policies implemented in the late 1990s and early 2000s on landfill diversion. Waste prevention is nevertheless the next necessary target of waste regulatory efforts.
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