UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The financial and social costs of solid waste disposal Zeiss, Christopher Andrew


Decisions about methods and locations for solid waste disposal in the Greater Vancouver Sewage and Drainage District (GVS&DD), the study area, have been determined on the basis of the financial costs. The social costs caused by noxious external effects result in citizen opposition in the host-communities. As a result, the financially cheapest method, landfilling, has been successfully opposed in four of the last five instances where sites have been proposed in the study area. A review of the literature reveals similar problems with disposal facilities in other urban areas in North America. This thesis assesses the social costs caused by the side-effects of solid waste disposal facilities, compares them with the financial costs and draws conclusions for the waste management planning process. The cost comparison is based on four methods of municipal solid waste disposal found suitable for the GVS&DD: 100% landfilling, 100% mass-burning grate incineration, source-separated recycling with residual landfilling, and source-separated recycling with residual incineration. The financial costs are calculated with data derived from operational experience with disposal facilities in North America and Europe. Contrary to the cost figures presented by the GVS&DD, landfilling is found to be the most expensive method at $14.50 per metric tonne average present valued over 20 years of operation. Source-separated recycling with residual incineration is the cheapest disposal method at $11.25 per tonne. The social costs are categorized according to five types of side-effects derived from citizen complaints and from a review of operational characteristics. The nuisance, health, ecological, risk, and distributional effects are described and analysed in terms of their spatial impacts as a basis for data collection and valuation. The social costs are measured by calculating the opportunity costs caused by the external effects. Property value losses reflect the nuisance effects, loss of leisure time corresponds with the effort required for source-separation, and pollution control costs are used to value the potential health effects of water and air pollution. Ecological, risk, and distributional effects are analysed qualitatively, because no suitable methods for opportunity cost evaluation are available at present. The monetized costs (nuisance and health) represent between 20% and 50% of the total disposal costs. The sum of monetized and non-monetized social costs represent a significant portion of the total disposal costs and must therefore be included in the waste management planning process. The spatial distribution of benefits and costs indicates that benefits and financial costs for disposal are distributed evenly over the study area, the social costs, however, accrue predominantly in the host-community. Citizen opposition is often caused by the perception of the inequitable distribution of costs and benefits. Thus, in order to overcome local citizen opposition the social costs must be redistributed more equitably, i.e. in proportion to the benefits. In-kind redistribution of the external effects through decentralisation of disposal facilities is found to be impractical and ineffective. However, voluntary acceptance of noxious facilities can be achieved by compensating the affected residents. Adequate compensation can be determined through a bid-bargaining process between potential host-communities and the proponent. This method is suggested for the disposal facility siting process in the GVS&DD. Analytical social cost calculation can be refined to serve as a basis for determining the minimum compensation sum, the distribution of the compensation to the residents, and for the initial project analysis. Future research is suggested on methods to quantify and value the non-monetized social cost elements.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.