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

Posted: 9 Jun 2005

See all articles by Elbert Dijkgraaf

Elbert Dijkgraaf

Erasmus University Rotterdam, SEOR-ECRi; Tinbergen Institute

Herman R.J. Vollebergh

PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Bilthoven); Tilburg Unversity ; CESifo Institute; Tilburg Sustainability Centre; Tilburg University - Center and Faculty of Economics and Business Administration

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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.

Keywords: Waste policy, project evaluation, incineration, landfilling, climate change

JEL Classification: H43, L99, Q42

Suggested Citation

Dijkgraaf, Elbert and Vollebergh, Herman R.J., Burn or Bury? A Social Cost Comparison of Final Waste Disposal Methods. Ecological Economics, Vol. 50, No. 3-4, pp. 233-247. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=738965

Elbert Dijkgraaf (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam, SEOR-ECRi ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
H 7-34
Rotterdam, 3000 DR
Netherlands
+31 10 4082590 (Phone)
+31 10 4089650 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ecri.nl

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Herman R.J. Vollebergh

PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Bilthoven) ( email )

Bezuidenhoutseweg 30
Den Haag, 2594 AV
Netherlands
+31655736920 (Phone)

Tilburg Unversity ( email )

Tilburg
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.tilburguniversity.edu/webwijs/show/h.r.j.vollebergh.htm

CESifo Institute ( email )

Munich
Germany

Tilburg Sustainability Centre ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, North Brabant 5000 LE
Netherlands

Tilburg University - Center and Faculty of Economics and Business Administration ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

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