Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation series
Edited by Larry Kreiser, Ana Yábar Sterling, Pedro Herrera, Janet E. Milne and Hope Ashiabor
Chapter 15: Looking for evidence of landfill tax effectiveness in the European Union
The recent economic and financial crisis, together with increasing concerns over environmental issues, offers new arguments for the use of environmental Pigouvian taxes – that is, taxes on polluters based on the estimated externality costs of a given activity. Although revenue maximisation and the minimisation of environmental damage have been often considered at odds with each other, a well designed tax can arguably generate benefits for both public finances and the environment. An example is represented by landfill taxes, which can encourage the diversion of waste from landfills to other forms of treatment (such as reuse or recycling) while generating revenues for public administrations. The advantages of curbing the landfilling of waste are manifold. First, the capacity of licensed landfills is not infinite, and some countries are already facing real spatial constraints to the creation of new landfills or the expansion of existing ones. Furthermore, there are growing concerns about the environmental externalities of landfills, as they can lead to soil and groundwater pollution, loss of local amenity, the emission of methane and impacts to human health (Martin and Scott, 2003). From an environmental point of view, the ideal amount of landfilling would arguably be zero. However, the social costs of reducing the amount of landfilled waste to zero, for example by imposing a ban, can be very high (Bartelings et al., 2005).
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