ORBIT e.V.

Cost-Benefit Analysis for Residual Waste Treatment

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Courtesy of ORBIT e.V.

ABSTRACT

Across the EU, old and new Member States are asking the question ‘how should we best deal with waste’? The changes being introduced in accession states are highly significant, but no less significant are the implications of the Landfill Directive for those older Member States that have traditionally relied heavily on landfill for disposal of waste. Despite the recent – albeit tacit – step back, on the part of the European Commission, from a waste management hierarchy which clearly favours recycling over the generation of energy from waste (whether this is defined as recovery or not), the questions facing Member States and municipalities are no less profound. Indeed, arguably, they become more difficult to answer at the local level. The Commission’s favourable view of ‘life cycle thinking’ has the potential to lead to proliferation of technocractic approaches to waste management decision making which can rarely deliver clear and unequivocal answers to the relevant questions. Furthermore, such approaches are time consuming, expensive, and can alienate citizens from decision making because of the technical nature of the decision making process. This is not to say that such methods are completely without their uses. It is clear, however, that these approaches need to be considered in a broader context, and as far as municipal waste management is concerned, involvement of citizens in decision making processes has much to recommend it. This is necessary if only because, due to scientific uncertainty and methodological questions, technocratic approaches are still very much ‘work in progress’.

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