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[GreenYes] RE: Recycling's Future and Pigovian taxes
As noted in earlier email notes, several European countries are using Pigovian taxes on solid waste disposal, including both landfills and incinerators. This includes Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the UK. In Norway, the tax was set after an extensive study was done on the externalities of solid waste disposal and the tax was set at $40 a ton at landfills and incinerators without energy recovery, somewhat less at incinerators with energy recovery. An interesting report on evaluating the externalities of solid waste management is the Ph.D thesis of Inger Brisson of Denmark, who did her doctorate under Professor David Pearce in the UK. A report on her work is on the Internet at
In response to Helen's question, in most cases, it does not appear that the tax has been used to fund environmental programs specifically. Instead, the view seems to be that because the disposal of solid waste imposes costs on the general public, it is sufficient to use the tax money for general purposes.
The field of economics that assigns economic values to environmental impacts is often called environmental valuation. In Denmark, a national institute of environmental valuation is being established and the controversial author Bjrn Lomborg has been chosed to head this institute, according to an article in today's Danish newspaper Politiken.
Besides imposing taxes on the environmental impacts of materials disposal, it does not appear that Pigovian taxes have been applied in these countries on the extraction of raw materials. Indeed, in at least several of these countries, subsidies are given for virgin materials, as we do in the US.
If anyone would like other references to studies done in these countries on the economic costs of externalities from solid waste, please let me know. In return, I would appreciate knowing of such studies from other parts of the world.
John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI
-----Original Message-----
From: Helen Spiegelman []
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2002 6:29 PM
To: Peter Anderson; GreenYes
Subject: Re: [GreenYes] Technology and Recycling's Future

Two cents:

I think Peter's right. A key risk to recyclers exists because of the gap between them and the decision-makers in product/package design. No sooner does the recycler invest in equipment to handle widget X than the producer of widget X introduces a new-and-improved widget X' that the equipment can't handle. If Widget X, Inc. were responsible for recycling as well as producing its widgets, they might go for automated recycling equipment -- or not -- but you can be sure there would be good communication between the design-production dept and the recycling dept. This is, as I understand it, the gap that Peter and PRP are trying to fill with plastics, right Peter? This is why more and more of us are trying to get producers engaged in recycling and believe that in the next phase recyclers will be suppliers to producers, rather than to municipalities and an adjunct to the waste industry, which is the current situation, more often than not.

Peter, do you have any insights into how we can go about getting landfill pricing right? Are you thinking of Pigovian taxes that would raise the price, leveling the playing field with recycling? Seems to me that is a necessary but not sufficient condition. If it is a tax/surcharge that will level the price upwards, what will happen to the $$ collected? We need to be thinking about how those $$ would be deployed in an economically efficient way. Do you have any ideas?

At 05:40 PM 02/25/2002 -0600, Peter Anderson wrote:
    That's why we have to concentrate all of our fire power are getting
landfill pricing corrected...

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