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[greenyes] Integrated Waste Hierarchy - Attacked in Europe


Europe urged to rethink the waste hierarchy
Environment Daily 1791, 16/12/04
A group of economists brought together by Denmark's Environmental
assessment institute (EAI) has called on the EU to rethink its use of
the waste hierarchy. The bloc places too much emphasis on recycling,
and recycling targets are too harmonised, the institute said following
a seminar at its Copenhagen offices.

Complaints about "rigid" application of the waste hierarchy are almost
as old as the concept itself. EAI is calling for cost-benefit analysis
(CBA) to be used as the key tool to prioritise between waste management
options. Four years ago EU employers' association Unice was calling
for exactly the same kind of flexibility under a banner of "integrated
resource and waste management" (ED 28/03/00

At the seminar organised to discuss EAI's planned report on the waste
hierarchy, environmental economist David Pearce was most forthright in
his criticism of the status quo. "I'd rather get rid of it" [the
hierarchy], because it inevitably leads to problems, he told the

Professor Pearce reported research that both the EU's 1994 and revised
2004 packaging directives "fail" the cost-benefit test. The first
imposed costs of UK£74 (?108) per tonne recovery while avoiding social
costs worth UK£30-50 in landfill impacts and UK£6-7 in terms of other
environmental externalities, he reported, giving a benefits to costs
ratio of only 0.6/1. The second has even higher recycling targets.

Meanwhile, University of Michigan academic Richard Porter argued
against "quantity-based" policies such as high and fixed recycling
targets and for "price-based" policies. Policy makers often prefer the
former, despite their shortcomings, because they are easy to do and
don't require detailed study to justify, he claimed.

Developed in the 1970s, the waste hierachy gives top priority to
source reduction (waste prevention), followed, in order by reuse,
recycling (plus composting), incineration and finally landfill. Under
a more detailed ranking incineration with energy recovery is followed
by landfill with energy recovery, then straight incineration and
finally straight landfill.


Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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