Waste management instruments available to Stirling Council to influence the behaviour of the households in this area - Environmental Management Essay Example
Waste problems have been getting severe and controversial after the industrial revolution (between 1750 and 1850) and following economic growth. A series of incidents, which were caused by hazardous waste emission by industries, were highlighted as a result of rapid economic growth in the late 1960s and 1970s. People’s awareness of waste management issues have been motivated by concern for human health (Williams, 1998).
However, economic growth and increasing waste are correlated as history has shown. In the 1990s, the concept of ‘sustainable development’ emerged as tackling many environmental problems. The famous conference: Earth Summit in Rio, 1992 brought a 40-chapter report of action plan for sustainable development, Agenda 21. This report stressed bottom-up participatory and community-based approaches, promotes ‘ think globally, act locally’. In effect, though waste management strategy is relatively similar worldwide, every local government bring different approach in their environmental plan as a ‘Local agenda 21′(O’Riordan, 2000).
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As to the waste management strategy in Scotland, the context synchronise the waste strategy both of EU and England and Wales. This strategy is well known as the EU waste management hierarchy. According to this, disposal to landfill is considered as undesirable option that should be avoided. Stirling area belongs to the Forth Valley Area Waste Group (the group is one of eleven waste strategy areas in Scotland). In these areas, 198,000 tones of MSW generates annually in, 95% of which is landfilled and municipal waste is predicted to increase 2 per cent annually (SEPA, 2001).
Although existing dumps unlikely to fill up landfill before 2100, Shortage of Landfill Capacity and rising costs of a landfill site are major problem in UK and likely to happen in this area later on. As Wilson (1997) said, ‘Waste reduction requires changes in the behavior of people, both collectively (e.g. as companies) and individually (as householders and employees)’, the role of local government is not only to give incentive for householders to minimized their waste but also change the behavior of producers. The aim of this essay is to discuss various instruments available for the council that can influence the behavior of the households in Stirling.
1. UK Waste Strategy
The aim of the UK waste strategy is to make waste management more sustainable by moving up the hierarchy of options (Figure 1).
First priority is to reduce or avoid waste in the first place; if it must be produced, the quantity should be minimized. The next step is to re-use or recycle, compost as much as is possible. Treatment should be expected both as recovery of energy and as minimization of the quantities requiring final disposal. Only the residues should be considered for landfill (Wilson, 1996). In addition, the support of a set of policy measures will be required as moves down the hierarchy (Figure 2). Three broad categories of policy instruments that might be considered are direct regulation, market-based measures, and education-information (Barron et al, 1996). There is no one policy measure and no right or wrong approach can achieve systematic waste reduction. Effectiveness of each measure is depending on the circumstances of country or region. Therefore, a combination of measures is essential (Wilson, 1996).
2. Minimising waste
Policy measures are often described as two major categories; ‘Stick’ or ‘Carrot’. ‘Stick’ can be divided into ‘legislative stick’ and ‘economic stick’. Legislative stick is the policy instrument, which work through putting a ceiling on the options legally available for waste management .The aim of the Economic stick is to change the behavior of industry and consumer through changes in cost structure at some point in the product lifecycle. “Carrots” are those policy measures to provide some financial incentive. Many types of instruments that aim at minimizing waste can be categorized as ‘Economic stick’.
2.1 Types of instruments for reducing waste
* Deposit refund scheme
The scheme was first established by beverage manufactures. This system gives financial incentive for both consumers and producers. However, many traditional deposit refund system such as glass bottles refund system have collapsed with alternative use of plastic as a beverage container. Nevertheless, recently, this scheme has applied to a number of other products such as car bodies (Sweden, Norway), batteries (Denmark, The Netherlands, some U.S) and disposable cameras (Japan). Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have recently introduced new types of deposit refund system in attempt to charges on non-returnable plastic containers (Wilson, 1997).
* Charge-per-bag scheme
Switzerland has recently introduced a charge per bag (averaging U.K. ï¿½0.75) and Ireland has started limited experiments with bag tagging. To date, the charge is flat-rate and volume-based charges is rare.
* Product tax
It is expanding in many European countries as a way of raising the price of disposal or non-recyclable products. The revenue of the tax is commonly used as setting up deposit refund system (Norway and Finland) and providing subsidies for recycling materials (Belgium and Switzerland). The other countries for example, Denmark (beverage containers and tableware), Itary(Plastic bag), The Netherlands(PET soft drinks bottles) and Korea(nappies).
* Raw material tax
Examples can be observed in tax on paper in Belgium (tax is withdrawn if the recycling target are achieved) and raw material of liquid container (Italy). The system is sound in concept yet often encounter the problem in practice particularly when imposing tax on imported material. However, this instrument has potential, as it will increase the price of raw material, alternately boost the market of recycled material (Wilson, 1997).
* The UK landfill Tax and the related Landfill Tax Credit Scheme (LTCS)
There are two major effects by introducing this tax. First, increase in the cost of landfill may discourage its use and encouraging waste producer to seek more sustainable treatment method, such as recycling scheme. Second, the money raised by the tax can be funded for various environmental protection projects through LTCS (Morris et al, 2001). As Stirling area for instance, the revenue of Landfill tax subsidized recycling project, church restoration project and the landscaping project at the Smith Museum (CSV, 2002).
2.2 Problems in economic sticks
Effective use of environmental taxes and charges should in principle be directly linked to the pollution problem they are meant to mitigate or enhance environmental protection project. Although sound in theory, they often encounter difficulties in practice. In many cases with LTCS, the strong linkage between tax and the environmental protection project would trade off against higher administration costs for the tax. The fairness issue has also argued as a socio-economic issue. Even though income distribute differently in each household, many green tax or charge imposes evenly. Hence, consumer groups argued that such tax should only be imposed on firms, who are responsible for all the product life cycle. However, It is always households, which eventually bear the burden of the tax, regardless of who makes the tax payments.
The imposition of the environmental tax raises the firm’s marginal cost of production and consequently leads to reduction in output of the product. It would happen in case of the firms in monopoly or oligopoly status (Turner et al, 1998) or householders and industries dump rubbish illegally in town and countryside (fly-tipping) in attempt to avoid the cost of legal waste treatment (Crawford, 2002). As to the green tax, there are also complexity in delivering and monitoring the tax.
Labeling a tax as ‘environmental tax’ may make it easier to introduce with less public opposition, and may garner political support. However, it is difficult to establish the tax level in advance. Deterioration of environmental quality may occur if the tax is set at too low a level or repackaging existing tax as ‘green tax’. The solutions should be made in order to avoid the problems especially in tax systems. The fairness issue may be solved if revenues generated by environmental taxes to reduce other taxes in the economy or introduce ability-to-pay principle would introduce the tax collection system. (Turner et al, 1998).
3. Recycle and Composting
Recycling is widely recognized to be environmental beneficial. It decreases demand for landfill site and reduced use of virgin material that consequently lead to emission reduction to environment and saving energy consumption. In Scotland, just over half the local authorities conduct separate schemes collecting materials for recycling. Approximately, local authorities collect just 4% of total waste in 1998. In order to reduce major part of municipal waste, government has introduced ‘The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations in 1997 as part of the UK implementation of the EC Directive (94/62/EC) on Package and Packaging Waste.
Accordingly, at least 4.65 million tonnes of packaging waste much be recover or recycled each year (SEPA, 2001). The concept of ‘producer responsibility’ is, literally, that the producer should take responsibility for the waste that arose from their product, rather than expecting society to pay for waste collection and treatment. In order to fulfil the obligation, producers establish a parallel waste collection system or they can free to find the most cost-efficient way. For example, in France and Italy, the industry pays local authorities a fee – which generated from a levy on each package – for packaging material collection and segregation for recycling (Craighill et al, 1996). Two types of systems exist to reclaim the materials separately, the ‘Bring’ and the ‘Collect’ systems.
With regards to the ‘Bring’ system, householder brings recyclable materials to centralised collection site (i.e. bottle or paper banks at the local supermarket). The ‘Collect’ systems can be described as ‘kerbside collection’ of designated recyclable materials, source separated by the householder and placed in separate containers (Williams, 1998). According to the survey of the waste and Resources Action Programs (WRAP), kerbside collection is an extremely effective method of collecting glass for recycling. Recently only 10% of UK households can utilize kerbside collection of glass, which bring the recovery of approximately 60,000 tonnes of glass each year.
The study show that if all 21.1 million households in the UK were offered the service, up to 650,000 tonnes of glass can be collected each year (WRAP, 2001). However, social and environmental impacts are arising from transport of kerbside scheme; social impact as road traffic accident and road congestion, and environmental impact as greenhouse gas emission. Due to the fact that reprocessing plants for recyclable materials are not evenly distributed around the country, vehicle often have to travel huge mileages. In the South West, for example, more than 1200 vehicle kilometres are travelled per tonne of glass in order to deliver them to the reprocessor of North England (Holman, 2002). A combination of Cost-Benefit-Analysis (CBA) and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is needed for mitigate problem displacement
Assumed that separating and collecting scheme could achieve the target successfully, still another problem exist as ‘Absence of market for secondary materials’. 1991 German Packaging Ordinance as an example, public response for recycling target in the first year was so enthusiastic that primary targets, particularly for plastics, were over-achieved. Consequently, markets within Germany for the separated materials could not handle and materials were dumped in markets elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world (Wilson, 1997).
It is also important to introduce “Carrots” in the context of recycling scheme for give incentive for both local authority and householders. This carrots is the so-called recycling credit; an example being the U.K. scheme whereby the Waste Disposal Authority pays an amount of its avoided disposal costs to the Waste Collection Authority or other organizations in charge of collecting materials for recycling (Barron et al, 1996). “Carrots” are also required to apply to householders such as exchanging recyclable material for recycled materials (As author’s personal experience, in Japan, householders can exchange recyclable newspaper for toilet paper).
To briefly mention about composting, it has reported that the ‘Waste Away Scheme’ of Moray Council has been a success by introducing ‘Green Cones’ in 1100 householders in Moray in attempt to divert organic waste going to landfill. The Green Cone uses solar energy to decompose organic waste, which is placed just below the top of surface of the ground. This nutritious liquid from the cone can act as fertilizer to surrounding soil (Jones, 2002). As this example has shown, the clever delivery of composting system can be effective for reducing organic waste going to landfill.
4. Information dissemination and education
Sustainable development is gradually becoming an important aspect of every child’s education. Schools are recognized as a key role to play in community recycling. More creativity and innovative methods will be needed so as to address waste management topic within the educational structure. There are two ways of achieving this. First, make the topic of sustainable development regular theme within the context of studying other subject; Teachers select the story that educates children about waste management in literacy class. Second, use core subjects to educate children on good waste management practice. However, effectiveness is largely depending on individual school and creativity of the teacher (Freeman, 2002).
Other existing creative ideas for reducing waste;
* Waste-free lunch day – encouraging lunch with no waste
* Schools use local scrap store for taking up resources for educational project
* Poster competition
Education programs can be also applied to mature consumer with different approach. Eco-labelling is for first instance; provide consumers with additional information such as recycled content of the product. Another example is “BYOB-Bring Your Own Bag” campaign in Hong-Kong, which aims to increase awareness and individual voluntary adoption of waste reduction steps (Barron et al, 1996).
It is local government responsibility to enhance people’s awareness by raising campaign, events and make known wider environmental issues. It is important that those educational programs not only gain sound environmental understanding of people but also raising money. In designing process, local government can work with other organization (i.e. environmental organization, charity group, University and so on) to plan creative, striking and attractive programs.
For example, Environmental organization, Waste Watch now provides consultancy service to local authorities assisting them to design campaigns (Freeman, 2002). Clever use of information technology is another suggestion, developing web site for providing environmental information such as environment fact in Stirling, environmental event calendar, and environmental education – it can be used for school education as well – and so on. This web site also offers some competitions or debate.
When designing instruments of waste management, it is important to make sure that the instruments
a) Can moving up the hierarchy of the option,
b) Consider income distribution among each household,
c) Does not cause problem displacement (i.e. recycling can be achieved by causing serious air pollution),
D) Promote sustainable development (benefit on ecology, economy and socially)
E) Make local householders cooperative
In order to achieve national and local waste strategy (which related to A in above), efficient deliberation of B to E is essential. By considering these points, I recommend Stirling Council to deliver the instruments;
* Deposit refund scheme
It may largely depends on the situation of local business, yet local government may expand such market by encourage local shops and University to buy refundable product (local government may give financial incentive to them by giving subsidy or credit for instance,) and encourage people to buy such products (i.e. local shops may gain financial support from local authorities, they may reduce price of such products)
* The Landfill Tax Credit Scheme
Many environmental projects already have operated in Stirling. However, these projects seem not well known to the public. I recommend the money gained from the landfill can be used for planning and delivering educational program as well.
As one of the residents of Stirling, I feel many people are reluctant to collect materials for recycling mainly because the storage space and nuisance while storing. The local government need to reduce such a disadvantage by both giving financial incentives (i.e. change recyclable materials and recycled products as a reward) and educating people (by encouraging school to plan recycling competition for instance). Local governments also need to support the market of secondary products in the same way as encouraging refundable product stated above.
Follow the example of Moray Council as I have previously mentioned, composting unit (i.e. Green Corn) can be installed in each household in attempt to reduce organic material going to landfill.
Providing information and educating people, are fundamental to those instruments stated above. It is important to make people aware that waste management is a social responsibility, and that local government should plan various information by broadcasting and educational programs for each generation of local society with different approach. I recommend such programs can be designed with other organizations and local communities in order to for these programs work effectively in local communities and enhance other waste management instruments. In conclusion, there are many instruments exist that can be broadly divided into ‘Carrot’ or ‘Stick’.
However, there is no ‘good’ or ‘wrong’ approach. As the sustainable concept ” think globally, act locally” as shown, ecology, economy and social circumstances are different among each region. Therefore, combination of those instruments and cooperative attitude within household is essential in order to cycle those measure smoothly. Information dissemination and education can be good oil for the wheels of best practice options of waste management.