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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Siting waste disposal facilities in host communities : impacts and acceptance Zeiss, Christopher Andrew


The siting of municipal solid waste disposal facilities is often unsuccessful or delayed because of host community opposition. Physical, economic, social and political impacts of landfill and an incinerator site are identified, assessed and combined in a rational model to explain the cause of opposition. Residents' beliefs about facility impacts correspond well with the assessed physical impacts at the landfill in identifying odor, birds, traffic, water emissions and explosion risks as negative impacts and convenient disposal as a benefit. At the incinerator, common resident beliefs comprise odors, noise, traffic and air emissions as negative impacts and energy recovery as a benefit. Underlying these obvious physical impacts, however is a group of non-physical beliefs about the harm to community image, loss of control, unfairness, and property value losses in the host community. These non-physical impacts influence the attitude about the facility as strongly as the physical impacts. Finally, exposure to obvious physical impacts is shown to negatively influence the beliefs about physical and non-physical (economic, social and political) impacts. Thus, by screening the host community from obvious physical impacts (nuisances), the beliefs about community image, control, fairness and property values can be enhanced. Since negative attitude and opposition action are strongest prior to facility construction, the siting efforts need to be focused on this period. After construction, the host community adapts to the new situation. The facility impacts are combined into a model to define a criterion for acceptance. The net value of facility impacts and benefits must reach or exceed in value the narrow tolerance range at the original host community reference point to avoid significant host community opposition. Impact reduction rather than compensation is theoretically shown to be the more effective approach to fulfilling the acceptance criterion. This approach is empirically tested at typical waste facility sites. Despite higher costs for prevention and emission control methods to reduce physical and non-physical impacts, these methods are shown to be superior to mitigation and compensation in gaining community acceptance. Based on the conclusions, the policy statement on waste facility sitings recommends first, defining entitlements and rules for the siting process, establishing increasing waste reduction and separation in a waste management plan, and using participative community planning as long-term, preventive facility siting measures. Short term siting measures comprise, the negotiation of siting agreements, the use of best available technical emission controls and continued monitoring by an overview committee. The focused use of prevention and control measures to address host community concerns can substantially enhance community acceptance of municipal solid waste facilities.

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