Why Municipal Solid Waste Charging Fails

Most municipalities across the world introduce MSW charging NOT for the purpose of behavioral changes, but for the purpose of finding extra income to pay for rising waste treatment cost, collection fees and compensation of widespread community opposition.

永續・生活 Sustainable Living

The Council for Sustainable Development emphasises that the ultimate goal to municipal solid waste charging is to establish behavioural changes in people’s daily garbage disposal through economic incentives.

I do not doubt the council’s good faith in trying to introduce policies to battle the current waste crisis.

Nevertheless, I could hardly find any justification on how charging for this waste could serve as an economic incentive to help reduce waste.

First, most municipalities across the world introduced  charging for this waste not for the purpose of behavioural changes, but to find extra income to pay for rising waste treatment costs and collection fees and compensation  in the face of widespread community opposition.

With the government aggressively trying to expand landfills and the huge price tag associated with such an expansion, it would be naive not to associate fees collected from municipal solid waste charging with landfill expansion expenses and compensation…

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Trends in Waste-to-Energy Industry

NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 18: Indian workers...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 18: An  Indian wor...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Around 130 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) are combusted annually in over 600 waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities globally that produce electricity and steam for district heating and recovered metals for recycling. Since 1995, the global WTE industry increased by more than 16 million tonnes of MSW. Incineration, with energy recovery, is the most common waste-to-energy method employed worldwide. Over the last five years, waste incineration in Europe has generated between an average of 4% to 8% of their countries’ electricity and between an average of 10% to 15% of the continent’s domestic heat.

Currently, the European nations are recognized as global leaders of the SWM and WTE movement. They are followed behind by the Asia Pacific region and North America respectively. In 2007 there are more than 600 WTE plants in 35 different countries, including large countries such as China and small ones such as Bermuda. Some of the newest plants are located in Asia.

The United States processes 14 percent of its trash in WTE plants. Denmark, on the other hand, processes more than any other country – 54 percent of its waste materials. As at the end of 2008, Europe had more than 475 WTE plants across its regions – more than any other continent in the world – that processes an average of 59 million tonnes of waste per annum. In the same year, the European WTE industry as a whole had generated revenues of approximately US$4.5bn. Legislative shifts by European governments have seen considerable progress made in the region’s WTE industry as well as in the implementation of advanced technology and innovative recycling solutions. The most important piece of WTE legislation pertaining to the region has been the European Union’s Landfill Directive, which was officially implemented in 2001 which has resulted in the planning and commissioning of an increasing number of WTE plants over the past five years.

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