Burn or bury? A social cost comparison of waste disposal methods

E. Dijkgraaf, Herman Vollebergh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

This paper evaluates the two well-known final waste disposal methods, incineration and landfilling. In particular we compare the social cost of two best-available technologies using a point estimate based on private and environmental cost data for the Netherlands. Not only does our comparison allow for Waste-to-Energy incineration plants but for landfills as well. The data provide support for the widespread policy preference for incineration over landfilling only if the analysis is restricted to environmental costs alone and includes savings of both energy and material recovery. Gross 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. Furthermore, we show that our result generalizes to other European countries and probably to the USA. 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. Finally, WTE plants are a very expensive way to save on climate change emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-247
JournalEcological Economics
Volume50
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

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incineration
waste disposal
landfill
energy
savings
climate change
comparison
social cost
method
Incineration
Social costs
Waste disposal
Cost comparison
cost
policy
Energy
environmental cost
Landfill
The Netherlands

Keywords

  • waste policy
  • project evaluation
  • incineration
  • landfilling
  • climate change

Cite this

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title = "Burn or bury? A social cost comparison of waste disposal methods",
abstract = "This paper evaluates the two well-known final waste disposal methods, incineration and landfilling. In particular we compare the social cost of two best-available technologies using a point estimate based on private and environmental cost data for the Netherlands. Not only does our comparison allow for Waste-to-Energy incineration plants but for landfills as well. The data provide support for the widespread policy preference for incineration over landfilling only if the analysis is restricted to environmental costs alone and includes savings of both energy and material recovery. Gross 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. Furthermore, we show that our result generalizes to other European countries and probably to the USA. 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. Finally, WTE plants are a very expensive way to save on climate change emissions.",
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Burn or bury? A social cost comparison of waste disposal methods. / Dijkgraaf, E.; Vollebergh, Herman.

In: Ecological Economics, Vol. 50, No. 3-4, 2004, p. 233-247.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AU - Vollebergh, Herman

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KW - climate change

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