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Sustainability 2016, 8(5), 442; doi:10.3390/su8050442
Abstract: Studying the effectiveness of environmental policies is of primary importance to address the unsustainable use of resources that threatens the entire society. Thus, the aim of this paper is to investigate on the effectiveness of environmental policy instruments to decouple waste generation and landfilling from economic growth. In order to do so, the paper analyzes the case study of the Slovakian municipality of Palarikovo, which has drastically improved its waste management system between 2000 and 2012, through the utilization of differentiated waste taxes and awareness-raising and education campaigns, as well as targeting increased recycling and municipal composting. We find evidence of absolute decoupling for landfilled waste and waste generation, the latter being more limited in time and magnitude. These policy instruments could therefore play an important role in municipalities that are still lagging behind in waste management. More specifically, this policy mix was effective in moving away from landfilling, initiating recycling systems, and to some extent decreasing waste generation. Yet, a more explicit focus on waste prevention will be needed to address the entirety of the problem effectively.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Literature Review
2.1.1. Resource Decoupling
2.1.2. Waste Policies in Europe
2.1.3. Policy Instruments for Waste Management
2.2. Data Collection
- in the first stage, the problem definition was investigated and its parameters identified. These were analyzed through an in-depth evaluation based on a common assessment template, which had been developed within the DYNAMIX project for the ex-post assessment of environmental policy mixes.
- in the second stage, data was collected through desk research and a semi-structured interview with the municipality of Palarikovo based on the common assessment template.
- in the third stage, the collected data was interpreted by using the framework identified in the first stage.
Empirical Data Source
- Identify the mix of policy instruments, their roles, interdependencies and cause-effectiveness.
- Evaluate the instrument mix and its role.
- Improve the understanding of the environmental challenge at hand, assess the level of change resulting from the implementation of a policy in terms of environmental issues (e.g., resource use), as well as to investigate whether decoupling has been achieved (see Figure 1).
- Draw lessons from the application of these policy instruments.
- When DI > 1, it means the increasing rate of resource consumption or pollutant emissions keeps pace with or is higher than economic growth and no decoupling is taking place.
- When DI equals 1, it is the turning point between no decoupling and relative decoupling. In the stage of relative decoupling, a higher DI value means higher dependence on resources by economic growth, lower resource efficiency and heavier environmental pollution.
- When 0 < DI < 1, it means the rate of growth in resource consumption or pollutant emissions falls short of that of economic growth. In this case, relative decoupling is taking place.
- When DI = 0, it means the economy is growing while resource consumption remains constant. In other words, when the economy grows continuously, the amount of pollutants does not increase.
- When DI < 0 resource consumption or pollutant emissions/discharge decreases while the economy keeps growing and absolute decoupling is occurring.
3. Case Study Description and Results of Analysis
3.1. Case Study
3.2. Evolution of the Policy Mix
3.3. Main Instruments of the Policy Mix
- Economic instruments: the lump-sum fee, the PAYT, and the National Recycling Fund .
- Informational instrument: long-term information campaign.
Economic Instruments: The Lump-Sum Fee and the PAYT
Financing: The National Recycling Fund
Information Instruments: Information and Awareness-Raising Campaign
3.4. Effectiveness of the Policy Mix
3.4.1. Economic Effectiveness
3.4.2. Effects on Decoupling
Revised Waste Data Series
4.1. Policy Mix: Instruments and Estimated Impact. Did Absolute Decoupling Occur?
- Waste reduction is due to prevention of waste with the same composition, as the average residual waste and sorted waste.
- Waste generation remains constant, while a decrease in residual waste is due to an increase in source separation for composting (50%) and materials recycling (50%) (or vice versa).
- All reduction in generated and residual waste is due to illegal treatment: e.g., burning of combustible waste in private stoves or dumping of food and garden waste in the forest.
4.2. Limits of the Policy Mix and Outlook
Conflicts of Interest
- Geographical area of policy mix coverage
- Policy context
- Needs Assessment: The Environmental Problem/Resource Challenge
- Are there any economic or social problems related to the issue and environmental problems—e.g., is there important price volatility, (risk of) unavailability of resources for the economy or society?
- Who is the target group affected that have been, are or will be beneficiaries of the policy response?
- Policy Context and Policy Needs (Past (Specific Focus), Present and Future–Wider Context)
- What policy challenge(s) did the problem pose and what policy challenges does it still pose? What is the policy context? What policies have been put in place to address the issues, what policies are currently in place and which ones are already foreseen for future introduction?
- Policy response need: what sort of policy response did (and does) the problem call for?
- Historical Performance and Projections into the Future: Insights on Decoupling
- What has been the trend vs. GDP and what type of decoupling has been achieved?
- If possible, relate data on the environmental problem to data on GDP at EU, or national or local level, depending on the geographical scale of the case-study
- Drivers Affecting Change: Resource Use/Environmental Issues
- What are the drivers affecting resource use (driving demand for the resource and leading to resource overuse) or other environmental impacts? Detail demographic, societal, economic, political and other drivers applying more (or less) pressure on the specific issue.
- Situation/trend prior to introduction of policy mix
- Provide information on the baseline situation before the policy mix was introduced.
- Description of policy mix(es)
- Provide details of stated objective(s) and target(s), in quantitative terms to the extent possible, and timetables within which they are to be achieved. Include if intention is to fulfil supranational/international objectives (e.g. Kyoto, Nagoya, EU legislation) or national objectives.
- Describe the instruments in the mix and whether one type of tool (i.e. regulatory, economic, information) is dominant.
- For each instrument, what is its aim? What requirements does it place on relevant players (for example, phasing out a certain substance, meeting minimum recycling targets, etc.)? What reporting requirements exist?
- Evolution of policy mix
- Describe the evolution of the policy mix throughout its existence—provide details of the introduction of the first policy tool(s), then all subsequent relevant tools, and related revisions/reforms (e.g. progressive increases in rates applied through economic tools, broader extension of regulation requirements, etc.).
- Evaluation of policy mix: effectiveness (environmental sustainability)
- Does/did the policy mix result in a positive environmental outcome?
- Were its stated objective(s) met?
- Were the instruments used sufficient to meet the objectives?
- Did other, unforeseen/unintended positive outcomes or impacts (environmental, social, economic) result? Did other such negative outcomes or impacts result?
- Were these objectives set at a level to meet environmental needs?
- Which sectors/actors were identified as having key impacts/influences on the problem/issue? Was the policy mix applied to a sector previously not targeted by policies on the issue under question, or in a new area/issue – thereby aiming to stimulate change?
- Describe the relationships between the instruments. Describe the level of ‘connectivity’ (strong, weak) between each instrument and the primary one(s).
- Are there any indicators, monitoring systems, review processes or other monitoring mechanisms in place to track progress? Please describe these and provide details of review/monitoring exercises.
- Evaluation of policy mix: efficiency (economic sustainability)
- Is/was the policy mix considered cost-effective?
- What has been the level of impact on resource use of the policy mix (the effect)?
- Did the measures generate revenues (e.g. in the case of taxes) and if so, was revenue recycled/re-injected into the economy, and to what levels and activities? Did revenue recycling have positive amplifying effects?
- Overall assessment
- What is your overall view on the success(es) or failure(s) of this policy mix?
- How did the policy mix enable decoupling?
- How could it have been improved to achieve its original objective(s) and to achieve absolute decoupling?
- Beyond the case: developing the policy tool kits-ex ante
- The environmental challenge: What are the remaining needs for the future?
- What insights on policy mixes may be relevant for the addressing the future challenges?
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