Artificially Cheap: Why Landfills Should Charge the Full Cost of Waste Disposal

Dec 12, 2018

This blog looks at the importance of tipping fees, which are charges to “tip” garbage at landfills. When these charges cover the full cost of disposal—including both financial and environmental costs—they create strong incentives to landfill less waste. Diverting more waste can both delay the need to build expensive new landfills and generate important environmental benefits.

The price is right

Tipping fees are a natural starting point to improve how we manage solid waste. Every community either has a landfill within its borders or trucks their waste to a landfill in a neighbouring community. And because so much of our waste is landfilled in Canada (a whopping three-quarters), tipping fees act as a benchmark for the rest of the waste system—changing the economic viability of waste diversion and prevention.

Fees that reflect the full cost of disposal send a more accurate price signal to waste generators: it lets them decide whether it’s better to take their waste to a landfill, or whether to look for alternatives, like recycling and composting. If landfilling costs more than recycling, waste generators will recycle more and landfill less. This helps strike a more optimal—or efficient—balance between different waste management options.

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