Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Trans-Boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste: Evidence from a New Micro Data in the European Union

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Trans-Boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste: Evidence from a New Micro Data in the European Union

Article excerpt


The paper explores a new micro dataset on the export of hazardous waste generated in Europe. A total of 16 745 industrial facilities generated hazardous waste in 2009 out of which 1 272 exported some or all of the waste. A measure of the export intensity of facilities is introduced by using export of hazardous waste as a percentage of total hazardous waste generated. The study finds that 96% of the export stays within Europe and rarely goes to developing countries. The major driving force behind firms' decision to export hazardous waste may be the stringency of general environmental policies as well as the introduction of regulations and tax bases specific to waste disposal. Furthermore, the availability of sufficient waste management and recycling centers increases competition and decreases the cost of waste management, reducing the need to export hazardous wastes.

Keywords: Hazardous waste, Environmental policy, Waste handler, Trans-boundary movement, European Union, Waste management

1. Introduction

Economic growth and the rise in the production of goods and services leads to the creation of environmental 'bads' out of which hazardous wastes are the most dangerous for human health and the environment. Firms operating in advanced economies are required to reduce the release of hazardous wastes (Williams, 1987; Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2010). As a result several industrial facilities either recycle or recover hazardous wastes while others resort to treatment or disposal. Recycling, treatment and disposal is usually undertaken by a specialized agent which operates within the country. Other times, the waste is transported abroad for the purpose of disposal or recovery.

It is easy to find reports on the trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes at the country level. For instance, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) reports the export and import of wastes in the European Union (EU). In addition, Eurostat, which is the European Commission's (EC) statistical database, reports data on total hazardous waste generated as well as total hazardous waste treated in all European countries, which can be used to approximate the net export (or import) of hazardous wastes. However, firm level data on the export of hazardous wastes is difficult to obtain.

With this in mind, the European parliament and the Council of the EU adopted the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) in 2006 with the aim of providing transparent and accessible firm level data on industrial wastes. The E-PRTR is the first (and only) Europe-wide firm level database to directly report the amount of hazardous wastes industrial facilities ship to waste handlers inside and outside the country. All industrial facilities which transfer, to a third party, hazardous waste in excess of 2 tons per year are required to report the amount of hazardous waste transferred, the full address of the waste handler and report whether the waste is destined for disposal or recovery.

This study explores the new E-PRTR micro data to identify what type of industrial facilities export hazardous wastes, why they export and where the major destinations are. The study also introduces a measure of the export-intensity of firms and examines factors which affect the decision of individual firms to export hazardous waste.

An overview of the major hazardous waste generators in the EU is presented in Section 2. A measure of the export intensity of firms is proposed in Section 2.1 and destination countries are identified as importing countries in Section 2.2. In Section 3 possible factors that influence a firm's decision to export hazardous waste are explored.

2. Overview of Data

The E-PRTR provides firm-level environmental data (release of pollutants to air, water and land as well as pollutants and waste transferred to other facilities for treatment) for over 28 000 industrial facilities operating in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. …

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