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From an economic perspective should my council do more to recycle a greater proportion of our waste
Free essay example:
From an economic perspective should my council do more to encourage my household to recycle a greater proportion of our waste?
For my economic coursework, I will attempt to answer to the question above. In order to do this, we need to explain various terminologies and need to carry out research by analysing collected data to be able to draw a conclusion. Prior to this, we need to answer the key question of: ‘What is recycling?’ Recycling is when a substance (usually waste) is passed through a process so the substance can be reused, for a different purpose or even the same. So now the question of: ‘Where and what substances can be recycled locally?’Within the local council called Epsom and Ewell, there are facilities provided such as kerbside services, which are services available at the residents’ doorsteps. These include recycling of: food waste, white paper, glass, cans, textiles, household batteries, plastic bottles, cardboard, and garden waste. There are other services such as recycling centres, home composting, washable nappies, recycling of furniture and bulky items. My family consists of six people who all live in this household. My parents are the people in the household who manage the waste. Fundamental economic terms that I will use will now be explained as follows. Market failure occurs when productive, allocative and therefore economic and Pareto efficiency are not achieved. Private costs are the disadvantages of an economic activity to an individual whereas private benefits the advantages. Externalities are effects on people resulting from the production and consumption decisions of others. Negative externalities result in overproduction and so market failure; this happens when social costs exceed private costs. Positive externalities result in underproduction and so market failure, this happens when social benefits exceed private benefits. Social costs are the total costs to society of an economic decision whereas social benefits are the total benefits. Taxes are charges imposed by the government on people and firms, so supply decreases. The price rises as a result so that means less demand too. Subsidies are payments by the government to the producers and consumers. They reduce cost of supplying which means more is produced and sold at lower prices which also results in an increase in demand. A household is the group of people living in one house. The council (legislative) is the local governing authority of a town or county. Waste is anything rejected as useless, worthless, or in excess of what is required. The method of my research will now be explained.
As mentioned earlier, data will need to be collected and analysed in order to answer the question at the top of the page. To do this, firstly primary research will need to be carried out. For this, investigations will take place to produce data, which will be analysed. I will also ask key members (parents) of my household various questions to find out how committed they are to recycling, their attitudes towards it, and ideas of what could encourage them to recycle more if possible. I will also measure how much of household waste is recycled regularly and how much more can be recycled. The primary research will enable me to observe how much my household is recycling, which could be compared to figures locally and nationally. In addition, it will show what materials are being recycled and whether any other materials can be recycled. This will show whether the household is recycling to its full potential or if there is a lot of room for improvement. Furthermore, it will show whether the household members are recycling as much as they think they are and it could give suggestions, which could help me provide recommendations for the council to encourage recycling. To be able to compare between local, national, and my household’s figures I will need to carry out secondary research. This requires me to collect data that has already been produced by the third party. For the secondary research, I will be trying to find out how my local council is trying to promote recycling and how they fair compared to other councils (recycling facilities). I will also find out which materials save the most energy when recycled, so these will take priority in recycling and will show whether it is worth it. I will also investigate what proportions of the land fill waste consists of which materials. This will show how much more can be recycled collectively from a whole city or county. National and local figures will be collected for reasons explained earlier, comparing my household’s figures to the average local and national figures. I will also investigate how much waste is generated by households and how much by firms. All this will also show if the council’s efforts are having an effect on people’s attitudes to recycling and if the council should improve their efforts to encourage recycling.
Analysis of Answers
The answers show my household recycles plastic bottles, paper and cardboard and only use kerbside services. This is explained by when my parents say they are to busy. This is expected as my father has to go to work while my mother has to look after my little sister at home, I also have a little brother and another sister. The answers also show my household has no particular pattern of when to recycle except for when the bags and boxes are emptied. This could mean if the recycling waste was collected more often, more waste will be recycled from my household. The research also shows my parents do visit recycling centres, which shows their commitment toward recycling is not very strong although they do know the basics of why we recycle. If they did know how much impact recycling has they could become more committed. The research also suggests taxes and subsidies would only work in large amounts. It also suggests a very good idea would be to make all materials recyclable using kerbside services or within close proximity to the household such as the closest road junction. All these suggestions will be analysed further later on.
I will now investigate how much of my household’s waste is recycled and how much more could be recycled. It will be done by weighing an empty bin after the waste is collected from the bin then it will be weighed again a week later before it is collected. The increase in weight will be the amount of waste that has not been recycled. The same will be done for the recycling bins which will show how much has been recycled. The total weight of waste will be calculated by adding the weight recycled and the weight of waste that has not been recycled. I will then work out percentages in order to present the data in a pie chart. This will be done by dividing the weight of waste recycled/ not recycled by the total weight. This new figure will then be multiplied by 100. This will result in the percentage of household waste recycled/not recycled.
So: weight of recycled/ not recycled (kg) x 100 = Percentage of waste recycled/ not recycled(%)
weight of total waste (kg)
To figure out how much more can be recycled I will tell all members of my household to recycle as much as possible for the next week. I will also remind them what can be recycled and what cannot, incentives will be used too. I will then carry out the same measurements of finding the percentage of household waste that has been recycled. The expected rise in the percentage recycled will be the percentage of household waste that can be recycled further. I will then also record how much of which materials make up the main waste in the wheelie bin and also in the recycling boxes/bags. Results are shown below.
The pie charts show the regular recycling figures of my household waste are: 27% is recycled while 73% is not. It also proves that only paper and plastic bottles are recycled in a regular week with plastic bottles dominating. Only two recycling boxes (plastic bottles & paper) was used while all the others were left empty. The data also shows food to be the dominating material in the waste wheelie bin. This substance clearly needs to be cut down by recycling. There are also materials such as garden waste and packaging (depending on material) which can be recycled. Figures shown here will be compared to council and national averages.
Data collected after recycling with maximum potential
The pie charts shows the figures of the household waste for my household using current recycling facilities with maximum effort. This shows a percentage increase in recycling of 26%, which nearly doubles the recycling figure of 27% to 53%. After influencing the household members to recycle, my parents have decided to recycle more in the future. These results imply that if incentives and information for recycling were given to each household, recycling figures will significantly increase. In addition, the fact that incentives were used to encourage recycling, and were successful, indicates that subsidies and taxes could have an effect on residents. Most common types of waste of the household were noticeably reduced such as: paper, food, and garden waste. The garden waste could be the result of frequent gardening during the week, however, on previous occasions, garden waste was put in the waste bin, a skip, or it was burnt in a bonfire. Other materials were not recycled previously because the members were not aware of the range of materials that could be recycled just using the kerbside services, this mainly applies to food, which dominates the recycling figures as it was not even recycled before.. The council has put these new services in place for reasons that will be explained in the secondary research. The composition of the waste bin with maximum waste recycled shows considerable decrease in food waste, garden waste, and plastic bottles. These figures could be misleading as there was very little waste in the bin as most had been recycled. Also, food was still dominating as it was difficult to separate it out from other kitchen waste, also the recycling box for food did not have a large enough capacity to fit all our food waste for a fortnight. This all shows the council does provide kerbside services to recycle most of the household waste, which shows my council is doing quite well in its efforts. I will now carry out secondary research.
Recycling facilities provided by Epsom and Ewell Council
food waste, white paper, glass, cans, textiles, household batteries, plastic bottles, cardboard, and garden waste
recycling centres, home composting, washable nappies, recycling of furniture and bulky items
This shows most household waste can be recycled by the kerbside services so this means residents cannot complain of not being able to drive to recycling centres. However, some of these kerbside services have only been recently added after disappointing recycling figures were released earlier in the year as shown on the next page.
Percentage of household waste recycled in various councils across Surrey (1st April 2008 – 31st March 2009)
Percentage of household waste recycled
Epsom and Ewell
Reigate and Banstead
This table shows my council’s (Epsom and Ewell) recycling figures up against other councils in Surrey between 1st April 08 and 31st March 09. It is compared below in a graph.
This bar chart shows the percentage recycled of household waste in my council of Epsom and Ewell compared to other councils in Surrey. Epsom and Ewell is marked in red. It has the 8th best recycling percentage, with 20.4% behind Mole Valley who have the best figures. This shows Epsom and Ewell has room for improvement as it has figures below the average of 40.9%. However since these figures have been published, I have contacted the council via their website enquiry service, and have discovered that the council have drastically improved their recycling services which proves what I suggested earlier that new kerbside services were put in place very recently as my parents were not aware of these. These improvements have resulted in vast improvements in the council’s recycling figures. In June 48.6% of the household waste was recycled which is nearly half of all household waste. It also shows an increase in recycling of 17.4%, which makes the recycling percentage above the Surrey average. In July it is expected to be over 50%.
Municipal Waste Management 2007/08, England
This pie chart shows how household waste is dealt with in England. 54.4% is put in landfill sites, 11.1 % is incinerated, and 34% is recycled while 0.4% is dealt with in other ways. This means landfill is still the most common method of waste disposal while recycling follows closely behind. These figures will be compared figures of my household and my local council.
This stacked bar chart shows methods of waste disposal is different parts of England. My household is in the London category. The line shows how much London recycles of its waste compared to other regions, and London is third best at recycling in the whole country. Incineration is not as common as it maybe in other parts of the country. Landfill is still the most common method of waste disposal. This data was collected two years ago so it could give a misleading concept of how figures are now.
Recycling rates in the UK
This stacked bar chart shows recycling rates have improved over the last decade. The orange sections of the bars increase in size as you look through to the more recent figures. Although figures have not been released yet for 2009, it is expected to show an increase too.
This stacked bar chart shows how waste is managed across countries in Europe. This data was compiled in 2003/04 so is not up to date. However, no other data in this form could be found. In addition, the trends shown in this graph are expected to be similar to ones in years that are more recent too. The graph is organised so as you go to the right the countries use landfill sites less and the general trend is that the countries to the right recycle more than those who use a lot of landfill sites (to the left). Out of these fifteen countries United Kingdom disposes the third highest percentage of waste in landfills which is not good reading. However, this will have improved by then and is most likely to be a similar story as was with my local council, Epsom and Ewell who dramatically improved after receiving terrible recycling figures.
Energy Saved from Recycling Different Materials
Aluminium - 95%
90% of energy needed to make plastics from raw materials.
1.2 tons of raw materials
700 pounds of carbon dioxide is saved per ton of glass melted for the purposes of making bottles and jars
7,000 gallons of water, up to 31 trees, 4,000 KWh of electricity and up to 60 pounds of air pollutants (not including carbon dioxide)
Overall, 60% less energy is used when recycled.
This table shows how much energy is saved when recycling these materials rather than manufacturing these materials from raw materials. This means less greenhouse gases are given off during the production of a material by recycling. This means benefits the environment too. All materials shown above are the most common types of waste that are recycled and all save more half of the energy used to make that particular material from raw materials. The materials if recycled that save the most energy are metals and plastics although glass and paper still save a considerable amount of energy and are still worth recycling.
Percentages of different materials that go into land fill
All waste that is not recycled in my council is put in to landfill. Here are some figures of what goes into land fill.
In my council, it is as follows:
Food waste – 30%
Cardboard – 10%
Plastic Bottles – 3%
Other – 57%
This shows food waste is the most common type of particular waste, this will be compared my household figures too. The waste categorized as ‘Other’ is because data was not available for this 57%. This would consist of materials such as rubble from the demolishing of buildings to construct new ones.
Estimated total annual waste arisings, by sector
The pie chart shows how much of the total waste is produced by each sector. It clearly shows construction and demolition produce the most waste, which is mainly produced by firms. All sectors are of firms other than the household sector (9% only). This means firms rather than the residents of the country produce the most waste. This means firms produced 404.85 million tonnes of waste while households only produced 30.15 million tonnes of waste. This shows that firms produced about 13 times more waste than households did. This statement will be analysed later.
Amount recycled of different materials in 1st January 2009 – 17th July 2009
This graph and table shows how much has been recycled of different materials in my council. Garden waste seems to be the most common most probably because of the summer when most gardening takes place and is expected to drop as winter closes in. Therefore, paper is expected to takeover. Food waste is expected to increase its rates once it gets going, as people have not been aware of this service for very as it has just been introduced. It is tipped to be a huge success with 3,000 tonnes expected to be recycled every year. Last year (2008), in total, 8543 tonnes of waste was recycled however it is thought that figures will rise to 13500 tonnes of waste which will have been recycled. The council feel this would be a fantastic achievement.
Explaining the Research
I will now compare my household research to council and national averages.
This bar chart compares my household’s figures to, council, county, regional and national averages. Before I influenced my family to recycle more the regular recycling figure was 27%, which is lower than all the recycling figures displayed on the chart. This means previous efforts of the household were not good enough. However, with maximum effort my household achieved the highest recycling figures on the chart. This shows the weak efforts before influence were not a fault of the council that my household was not aware of the range of services available, although the council could have explained the services clearly when introducing new services. My council’s terrible recycling percentage of March 2009 (31.2%), which was the 8th best out of 11 in Surrey, influenced them to make drastic improvements in their services. Its poor performance can be seen when compare to the average of those 11 councils which, as shown on the chart, was 40.9%. After making necessary improvements, which mainly consisted of making more materials recyclable using kerbside services, the recycling percentage shot up to 48.6% in June, as shown on chart. In July, as mentioned earlier, it is expected to go above 50%. This all means Epsom and Ewell’s figures could be higher than the highest recycling figure of March 2009, which was 51.6%, in the near future. This proves Epsom and Ewell council are on the right path to success. However, my household’s maximum percentage still betters all these figures, but only just. The regular recycling rate from present is estimated at about 50%, which is similar to Epsom and Ewell’s latest and protracted rates. Although this is close to the maximum recycling rate of my household, it is expected to occur, as the household members did not find themselves stressed in any way with the recycling with the influence so they should be capable of achieving the high figures. The chart also shows Surrey is doing very well compared to England in general and London. This would have been boosted by Epsom and Ewell’s efforts too. London clearly needs to improve along with all other parts of the country except for the West Midlands who were doing well. In conclusion, my household was doing very poorly before influence but very well after influence which suggest the council has actually taken necessary measures to boost recycling rates. They have made all materials recyclable except for large items that cannot be collected from kerbside. The council’s own recycling figures have also dramatically risen after improvements, which backs this point too. My household’s maximum recycling rate is higher than England’s, Surrey’s and London’s rates which shows Epsom and Ewell are doing well.
This map shows shoe leather costs could be a reason not to go and recycle at recycling centres as the closest one is 0.34 miles away. Although, the cost of time and energy used to drive/ walk to the nearest recycling centre in Stoneleigh could be a reason. This is not a valid reason as my father regularly works down the road from the nearest recycling centre and could easily take down waste there to recycle. However, yet again, my father might not have been aware of these centres, just like the household was not aware of all kerbside services. He also may not have the time. However, the centres in Stoneleigh only recycle glass and cans, which our household rarely has. All other centres provide services that are already available to recycle using kerbside services so in effect they have not much use except for people who do not have these services at home. Nothing should be recycled less just because the recycling centres are far away because they are not needed.
More convenient recycling facilities mean a lower marginal personal cost of recycling to my household as there will less costs for each unit of waste recycled. For example, if a household had to take waste to recycle to recycling centres, they would have much higher marginal personal costs than a household who can recycle all materials using kerbside services. This is because, the household that using recycling centres will have costs such as: time, energy for walking and money to pay for petrol if using a car.
This diagram shows a shift downwards (from MPC 1 to MPC 2) due to the increase in range of kerbside services. This means lower costs allow you to recycle the same/ higher amount (Q1 to Q2). This could be the reason why other boroughs are not recycling as much as the cost of recycling is too high, in order to recycle the same amount. This involves all costs when taking waste to recycling centres rather than using the kerbside services. The personal benefit remains the same (P).
Scarcity and Opportunity Costs
Economists refer to resources as being scarce. This emphasises that there are not enough resources to fulfil all of people’s wants. This is known as the economic problem. Land is scarce because there are so many uses for it but can only fulfil one of them which also make it inelastic in supply as price does not become a barrier. The ever-growing population means demand for land is increasing. Recycling slows down the use of raw resources, which are scarce. This is done by using waste to manufacture goods instead of using up more raw materials, which is saved. Waste is not scarce as people do not want it as it has no purpose or value. Considerably less energy used which is a scarce resource. This keeps resources available as long as possible. I they were put into landfills; it would effectively waste a scarce resource.
An opportunity cost is the benefit forgone for not taking the nest best alternative. Recycling means less landfill sites will be made. This means the land that would have been used as a landfill, can be used in better ways. This is because landfill sites that are not used, as a result of recycling, have large opportunity costs. A landfill site in use still has its opportunity costs as it could have been used as anything else such as: a housing estate, block of flats, and a shopping centre. There are also the opportunity costs of how the waste is actually dealt with. It could be: put in landfills, recycled, or incinerated. If it is recycled it cannot be burnt to generate electricity, and, if it is incinerated it cannot be used to make new goods. IF it is put in a landfill it cannot be used to make new goods, or be burnt to generate electricity. This means if recycled it cuts down on the opportunity costs. Incinerators are less common as they can give out very toxic substances (metals and gas).
Negative Externalities and Taxes
Negative externalities result in overproduction and so market failure; this happens when social costs exceed private costs. Taxes are charges imposed by the government on people and firms, so supply decreases. The price rises as a result so that means less demand too. Landfill is an example of market failure as scare resources are not being allocated in the right places. Land is a scarce resource involved that is not being allocated properly. It has many other uses other than a landfill, which can easily be solved by recycling. However, other uses such as a block of flats for the growing population cannot be replaced. This cannot be dealt with in any other way that uses less land. This shows the land should have been given to the block of flats. Landfills have negative externalities. Contaminated materials in the landfill, that has not been covered, could affect nearby residents. The landfill will also give nearby residential areas a poor reputation with cheap prices, which effects people in the property market. Landfill also gives off toxic substances into: atmosphere, nearby water stores and soil. This shows landfill is an example of market failure. Landfills will not be made if it was not needed, so if the need of them is reduced then they will not be made. The need can be reduced by recycling or not using landfill in any other way. One way could be to charge landfill users with taxes. These should discourage people to use them.
This diagram shows the effects of negative externalities and I will use to explain how taxes can reduce the external costs to reach social optimum output at QX. The quantity between QX and Q is the over – provision of landfill space. Market failure can be fully correct by charging taxes per unit equivalent to the external costs. This would then shift the marginal personal cost curve to be identical to the marginal social cost curve. This means there are no negative externalities.
Positive Externalities and Subsidies
Recycling generates positive externalities which results in underproduction and so market failure, this happens when social benefits exceed private benefits. This is mainly because the person recycling does not benefit, except from feeling good, in any way, instead other people will benefit as less landfill sites will be used, less energy will be used, which all mean less toxic fumes and more land available. These are all positive externalities. The production of less waste also means a better looking landscape without a landfill site with terrible odours. This will benefit everyone around the area. This is because the area will have a better reputation, and people in the property market will gain more money for each property and there will be a higher demand. These are all positive externalities, which are effects to the third party resulting from economic activities of others. To help reduce these, recycling will be encouraged with subsidies to the households to achieve socially optimal level of recycling.
This diagram shows the effect of positive externalities and I will use it to explain how the social optimum level of recycling can be reached at QX. The quantity between Q and QX is the under – provision of recycling. The marginal external benefits is the amount the government needs to give each unit (household) to bring recycling to it social optimum level. This will mean the marginal personal benefits curve will shift to match the marginal social benefits curve.
One key reason why recycling is a priority for the council, is to keep up with the rest of the councils in Surrey. After falling behind as shown by the March 2009 recycling statistics, they managed to improve dramatically which was a result of great effort of the council. This is all also to improve the council’s reputation as one of the best places to live in the country, as in recent years it has achieved 2nd place in the rankings. Another is reason is because of all the negative externalities that would be cause such as a bad landscape view and the opportunity costs, by landfills.
The council should carry on recycling rather than use incineration of the waste to produce energy for electricity. This is because a lot of energy is saved when recycling materials as shown by the table on page 11. This on its own will show a decrease in the rate of which raw materials are being used up for energy. Incineration is an easier method, as waste would not need to be sorted however, incineration as its problems too, such as: bad landscape view and toxic gases are given off. It would also mean a loss of material that could have been recycled. The ideal option would be to recycle all recyclable waste while incinerating all unrecyclable waste. However, households do not produce much waste that is not recyclable, only firms would be expected have a reasonable amount of unrecyclable waste. This could be solved by only applying this option to all firms and not households.
Although a high proportion of the total waste is collected from firms, recycling has been focused on the households. This means that more emphasis should be put on firms to recycle, depending on what industry and sector the firm is in. For example, if the firm is office – based, and academic then they should be encouraged to recycle, as they will have a lot of waste is recyclable, e.g. (paper, card). However if the firm is from the building and constructions industry, less emphasis should be placed on them to recycle as most of their waste is not recyclable and it would be difficult to sort the recyclable from the unrecyclable. Emphasis on recycling to households should continually be applied, as most of their waste is recyclable.
After analysing all research and theories, I will make three recommendations to the council that would help my household recycle more although current efforts are proving to be hugely successful.
- Based on the economic theories involved and the research, I would recommend the council to use taxes and subsidies to increase recycling figures and correct market failure. This is also backed by my household as they say it would work but only in significant amounts. This would not be possible for the government as if taxes were high; popularity of current government would fall, and in extreme cases could cause low net incomes. If subsidies were high, the government will not be able to afford it and some residents may decide to give up their jobs. If the taxes and subsidies were low, the majority of households would not mind. In conclusion, this option would only work if a compromise were found between the amount the government can charge/offer and the effect on households’ attitudes to recycling.
- Mainly based on my research I would recommend the council to advertise their kerbside services to the residents of the council or even go and talk to the residents. I would expect this to significantly boost recycling figures. This is because my household was not aware of all services available until I influenced them to recycle. Emphasis should be put on the food, but also paper and plastic bottles. I would also advise larger boxes for the recycling of food, as capacity proved to be a problem for my household. The disadvantages of this recommendation are that it could cost a lot of money for the advertisements and people could be irritated by people talking to them about recycling, however the direct talking to residents is only a fallback plan if the advertisements are not noticed. The advantage is that it might not actually cost very much as leaflets would be cheap to produce for the households, and only five billboards can be used, evenly spread about the council. Also, it is expected to boost figures dramatically.
- Another recommendation would to collect all waste in one bin rather than in sorted boxes. Convicts from jail, young offenders, or even school pupils who have caused trouble would then sort the rubbish. The problem with this would be that the marginal personal benefit would drop, as a keen resident would not feel like they are recycling, as they are not giving the effort that is usually needed. The sorters may make mistakes and may not be trusted by the keen recyclers. However, the problem of people not bothering to sort out the waste would be sorted and it would provide an alternative punishment for pupils at school other than detentions. Residents will feel the convicts are being punished rightly. Overall, this would mean most of the recyclable waste would be recycled, without much pressure put on the households, which would favour my household.
Overall, the recommendation that would have the greatest effect on my household’s recycling would be the third one as my family is busy with six members in it. In addition, no pressure is put on any of the household members. The effect of advertisements on my household would be minimal as they are now aware of all services; however, it will have a large impact on the rest of the council. The idea of taxes and subsidies would only work with compromises and even then, the incomes of residents in the councils are too diverse to calculate a compromise.
Transcript and notes of household interview
Questions & Answers
- What and how do you recycle?
- We recycle plastic bottles, paper, mainly newspapers, and some cardboard. We use the bags and boxes outside the house to put these materials in.
- How often do you use recycling services that you have mentioned?
- The council empties the boxes and bags every fortnight so we recycle when we have the waste to recycle.
- Do you visit the councils recycling centres, if yes, how often , and if no , why?
- No, because we do not have the time.
- Why do you think we recycle and do you think it’s worth all the effort?
- It’s to save energy and protect the environment. The doorstep services are good enough but to go to recycling centres is going over the top. I feel that is only for keen recyclers and for those who have plenty of time to spare.
- If :
- Taxes were given to you if you did not recycle a considerable amount.
- You were given cash rewards for recycling a considerable amount.
- Every type of waste was recyclable using kerbside services.
Would you recycle more?
- If the taxes and cash rewards were a significant amount then yes but I am most in favour with the idea of having all recycling services at your doorstep.
- Or do you have any other suggestions?
- Yes I do, what if smaller recycling centres were built at the end of the road for the less common recyclable materials?
List and sources
- AS Economics by SJ Grant
- Complete A-Z Economics Handbook by Nancy Well
- Defra UK
- Epsom and Ewell Council website
- Epsom and Ewell online enquiry service
23 | Page
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