Some notes about the Environment

The scale for the waste challenge confronting Britain is enormous. For most of the twentieth century, the waste by-products of industry have been dumped in rivers, landfill sites, the seas, and in the air. This pollution has happened for free – those who cause the pollution have not paid the price.

Gradually the scale of the pollution has been reeled back. Air pollution remains critical in major cities, and carbon pollution challenges the climate change targets. Rivers which were biologically dead have been brought back to some semblance of life, though the initial improvements have begun to level off. Marine pollution remains, especially where it is out of sight, though the dumping of sewerage sludge has been ended.

There has been progress on landfill too. European Directives have gradually borne down on the practice of “dig-a-hole-and-bury-it”, and landfill sites are more regulated now.  Some recycling has been introduced, and occasionally even enforced.

But this progress is against a backdrop of the sheer scale of the waste we are now producing. Packaging and household rubbish are the visible signs to the population, though these are only a part of the much bigger and worrying picture.

What is to be done? The good news is that the scope for improvement is vast, and the reduction of waste is often economically efficient once all the costs are included. Recycling makes sense when those who cause the waste, face the costs. This has become obvious in considering the tsunami of plastic bags the supermarkets have produced to put our shopping in. A small tax creates an enormous change in behaviours.

The plastic bag example is a good way of thinking about what could be done. Though it would not be possible to introduce charges for all the different types of waste, just thinking about how the environment and the economy would be radically different if there were, signals what is out there to be gained. The full circular economy might be an aspiration (and one which might not be particularly economically efficient) but it gets companies and governments thinking. Energy from waste, recycling and composting are all examples of what could be done.

Latest Publication

disposal 1846033 1920

Waste Policy - tidying up the mess we are in

May 18, 2017

Environment Publication

Out-of-sight and out-of-mind could be the motto of waste policy over the last few decades. We have dumped sewerage in our rivers and offshore, rubbish has gone to landfill sites, plastics into the sea and nuclear waste to storage sites. The results are..

Publications

  • Video Environment Natural Capital: Valuing the Planet
    October 23, 2015

    Presentation for London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Video Environment Natural Capital, Water and Catchments
    October 1, 2015

    Presentation for CIWEM: Valuing the Environment - Putting Natural Capital into practice
  • Video Environment Introduction to Natural Capital
    May 12, 2015

  • Publication Environment Natural Capital - Valuing the Planet
    May 12, 2015

    A clear, insightful, path breaking account of the crises in global natural capital and what we can do in economic and political terms to reverse the destruction of our environment
  • Publication Environment In defence of the Green Belt
    April 20, 2015

    A growing band of economists and geographers have been arguing the Green Belt is no longer fit for purpose and that it should be opened up for housing development. The argument is based upon a chain of assertions and purports to be based upon sound econom
  • Video Environment Natural Capital, Biodiversity & Environmental Restoration
    April 15, 2015

  • Presentation Environment Natural Capital
    March 13, 2015

    Envecon Slides from 13th March Presentation at the Applied Environmental Economics Conference.
  • Presentation Environment SONC 3 Launch Presentation
    January 27, 2015

    Slides from the SoNC 3 Lauch event on the 27th January 2015
  • Publication Environment Triennial Review of the Environment Agency and Natural England
    January 25, 2013

    1. The starting point is to focus on the objectives set by government policy, and to consider whether the current institutional arrangements are well designed to meet them. 2. The overarching aim is to ensure that the environment is integrated into the ec
  • Publication Environment The Economic analysis of biodiversity: an assessment
    October 5, 2012

    Abstract: Biodiversity is complex, difficult to define, difficult to measure, and often involves international and intergenerational considerations. Biodiversity loss presents significant economic challenges. A great deal of economics is required to under

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