International Regulation, Comparative and Contextual Perspectives
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 3: The waste hierarchy
Quantities of waste are increasing exponentially in all parts of the world. Even in the most highly developed countries, with the best possible recycling schemes, waste production is continuing to grow, albeit at a smaller rate than elsewhere. No one wants more waste. The economic, social and environmental costs of this problem have resulted in clear goals, from the local to the international, to confront the problem. The question is, how? The answer to this problem is the ‘waste hierarchy’. The two broad aims of the hierarchy are to generate as little waste as possible in the first place, and then to extract the maximum practical benefit of the waste that is still produced. In terms of sequence, the hierarchy suggests that as a priority order in waste prevention and management legislation and policy, policy makers should pursue prevention; reuse; recycling; other recovery (such as burning it and capturing some value of the waste as an energy source); and then – as a last resort – disposal. This chapter deals with the first part of the hierarchy – trying to reduce the production of waste in the first place. In this area, three options are available. First, the product can be prohibited. Second, consumers may voluntarily decide to steer away from the particular stream of waste, or third, pricing mechanisms are placed around it to make it economically unattractive, and thus create an incentive not to create the waste.
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